Common Ground: An Introduction to Community Land Trusts

Common Ground is a narrated slide show from the early 1980s that was developed and distributed by the Institute for Community Economics (ICE).  It was one of the first descriptions of the community land trust to appear in any medium other than print.

Planning for Common Ground began at the end of 1983, soon after ICE had finished work on The Community Land Trust Handbook, published by Rodale Press the following year.  Several members of the team who had played a leading role in writing and illustrating the Handbook were tapped by ICE’s executive director, Chuck Matthei, to join him in developing a “training film” that could be used by ICE’s technical assistance staff and by others in introducing the CLT to a wider audience.

It soon became clear, however, that the expense of shooting a film would exceed ICE’s limited resources.  Matthei turned to Tony Heriza of Community Media Productions, who had previously produced a low-cost documentary about gentrification in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood (We Will Not Be Moved).  Heriza had used slide carousels and an audio cassette with silent signals embedded in the tape that automatically advanced the carousels.  He was hired to produce a similar slide-tape documentary for ICE, featuring a three-year-old community land trust named the Community Land Cooperative of Cincinnati, which had been started by an alliance of pastors, ministers, and nuns in an African-American neighborhood adjoining Over the Rhine.

Heriza was responsible for the overall production, but his duties also included taking the photographs, taping and editing the interviews, and narrating the documentary.  Chuck Matthei, Kirby White, and John Emmeus Davis were responsible for framing the message, selecting the content, and writing the script.  Bonnie Acker provided the graphics.

Common Ground was completed in July 1985.  Fewer than 20 copies were produced.  Most have been lost.  The digital edition, posted here, was completed in 2014 at the behest of John Emmeus Davis, who supervised its preparation.  No changes have been made to the audio or images from the original slide show, except for converting them into a digital format.