Art and Community Development

Recently we were invited to tour a new work in process.  A small town and a big investment into a series of old buildings on Main Street; this is a wonderful plans to make this brick and mortar structure a destination for tourists and art lovers.  The plan and the actual reinventing of an old hardware store were done brilliantly.  Beautifully brightly lit open floor plans give way to rich red brick walls, and wonderfully built floor to ceiling display cases. A central check out with a point of sale system already installed.  For vendors the POS system could be logged into from home, and inventory readily available for our review and update.  There are wonderful minds behind this project, and we are so delighted to have been invited to see what is happening.  As we learn more and negotiate our place in this work we will keep you posted.

With our background in Urban Studies, and Steve’s years of economic development there was another layer of joy to see how visionaries of the community are seeing the potential of Art to breathe new life, new economic stimulus to this bucolic small town.  It seems to be thinking outside of the box to invest in the handcrafted work of Artists, and to build a model of community development that will enrich not just the coffers of the town, but the hearts and minds of everyone who is exposed to the endeavor.  But we have seen other places that reap the benefit and success of attracting handcrafted lovers, and art lovers, and tourists.  In West Virginia, along the freeway(I77) just outside Beckley is a wonderful one stop of the arts and handcrafts of the state.  The place is called Tamarack.  The building is a striking architectual statement – it looks like a large flower, with petals unfolding toward the parking lot.  And the building is landscaped with lavish foliage, and nice places to sit and enjoy nature.

tamarackWe were driving south, either for vacation, or for a family event, and the stop at Tamarack was restful, and energizing.  Tamarack was the brain child of the governor of West Virginia, with the hope of bringing together the amazing cottage industries of the state, and offering a one stop place to showcase them.  Accompanying the art is a wonderful selection of restaurants such as the Greenbriar.  Tamarack has been opened since 1994, offering a wide selection of the arts, music and handcrafts of the state.  They estimate over a million visitors per year.

And in Cleveland there are a few examples of community development through art that are working well.  ArtHouse, located on Cleveland’s west side in the Brooklyn Center neighborhood is active in providing art education, and open studio opportunities.  In their occupying and utilizing the old Quonset hut there is a new energy in the neighborhood.  The elementary school across the street also benefits from art education offered by Art House.

And the professional journals are hopeful that art as a destination, and art as an economic incubator is working across the nation.  Some foundations have invested in this type of development.  Among them, Kresge Foundation takes bids annually and has been involved in financing start up art hub projects.

We were so encouraged to see the lovely renovated space  and to meet the charming residents and interesting people who a re involved in promoting their small town.  The next step is waiting for the price list to determine if we can afford to be a part of this new startup.  A major company in that area is involved in the endeavor, so we know it is going to be a success.  We look forward to announcing something early next year.