Friday, March 28, 2008

ARTworks aimed at arts to activate economy

Caption: Crystal Pelkey, New Moon Media, Duluth, and Sibley Johns, The Music Resource Center, Charlottesville, VA, in a breakout session on how to enhance the value and appreciation of art and culture in the community.
Photo by Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff

by Tamara Hensley
The Twin Ports are awash in talent and this was clearly evident at the recent ARTworks conference held March 13-14 in Duluth-Superior. Over 300 artists and businesspeople attended this event aimed at formulating ways to activate a creative economy. Building on the region’s artistic and cultural assets to boost the economy by engaging the arts, business and civic sectors was the encompassing goal of the event.

The ARTworks conference was the result of a grant received by the Knight Creative Communities Foundation which aims to pull together the ideas and talents of all parts of the community in building a more attractive environment for economic growth. KCCI uses author Richard Florida’s idea that four T’s are necessary for a healthy and vibrant community: Technology, Tolerance, Territory and Talent. Research has indicated that the greatest challenge for the Northland lies in being a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming place though we have tremendous territorial assets, a growing technology sector and a wealth of talent within our current population.

Speakers and panelists from a handful of cities that have proven success with the arts, business and civic sectors working together for the betterment of their communities and increased appreciation of the arts. Panelists from Portland, Oregon, Charlottesville, Virginia, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Paducah, Kentucky, and Portland, Maine shared their successes. These initiatives included artist relocation programs, corporate investment in the arts, artist-in-residence programs and creative tourism.

Creating arts districts was a frequent sentiment at the conference and one in which Superior is prioritizing and Duluth is already making strides. The Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation has implemented “quality of life” plans in a number of neighborhoods. The Central and East Hillside neighborhoods are among the areas that have expressed an interest in establishing arts districts to include elements such as the Washington Studio Artist Cooperative.

Attendees to the conference also had the opportunity to formulate proposals and initiatives to maximize the creative assets of the Northland. A music resource center for the youth of our area was one such proposal. Such a center exists in Charlottesville, VA that attracts youth from grades 7 to 12, an age group which was lacking in a place to go and hang out. The group here in Duluth plans to gather research from our youth to determine if there is interest in such a center in the Northland. Groups formed at the event will continue to meet and fine tune their plans and eventually apply for grants to move the initiatives forward.

Enthusiasm was evident among all the conference goers as they networked and planned follow-up meetings and collaborations or just formed new friendships with kindred spirits. A sentiment heard over and over at the event was “having this conference is a great thing” and one of the many creative positives present in Duluth as we work towards greater
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