Download Full Text (8.4 MB)


Public life brings us together in common activity: cheering on the school sports team, enjoying Sunday dinner at a favorite restaurant, shopping at a local store. In these public spaces we conduct business, swap recipes, discuss issues of the day, relax with friends, and welcome newcomers to town. Public life knits together the diverse elements of a community and fosters a sense of civic responsibility. But longer job commutes, greater popularity of home entertainment, and online shopping mean more time spent privately and fewer opportunities to get together. To retain vitality, communities must continually nurture their traditional gathering places and invent fresh opportunities to enjoy the company of others.

The Place to Be is the project of a sociology seminar conducted in 2011–2012 at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. The project was directed by Professor Howard L. Sacks and conducted by students Trudy Andrzejewski, Anna Becker, Sarah Bush, Margaret Higby, Rebecca Katzman, Rachel Keller, Leslie Lasiter, Christian Martinez-Canchola, Kelly McPharlin, Melissa Straus, Daniel Tebes, William Udell, Colin Walker, and Marika West. Special thanks to all of the community members who so warmly welcomed us and shared their experiences. Additional thanks to Mike Andorfer, Jim Gibson, Janet Jacobs, Janis Johnson, Mark Ramser, Lynne Ricard, and Matt Starr. Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy the Rural Life Center.

Design: Nanette Black, N. Black Design Editorial services: Judy Sacks Exhibit fabrication: Applied Graphics Ltd., Central Ohio Fabricators Film production: I-CONN Video Production

The Place to Be is a presentation of the Rural Life Center at Kenyon College. The Rural Life Center promotes education, scholarship, and public projects about Knox County, Ohio. In active partnership with the surrounding community, we seek to ensure the vitality of rural life in a changing society. For further information, visit our Web site at

This exhibit is part of an initiative, Rural by Design, promoting rural sustainability in Knox County and is made possible with support from the McGregor Fund of Detroit, Michigan. The McGregor Fund is a private foundation established in 1925 by gifts from Katherine and Tracy McGregor “to relieve the misfortunes and promote the well-being of mankind.” The foundation awards grants to organizations in the following areas: human services, education, health care, arts and culture, and public benefit. Visit for additional information.

Publication Date



community, public life, rural sustainability, Knox County, Ohio


Civic and Community Engagement | Community-Based Learning | Place and Environment | Regional Sociology | Rural Sociology | Sociology

The Place To Be