F.A.C.E of Mahaska County
Public Art Plan
All of us are creative in our own lives in one way or another. Some paint or sculpt. Others sing or play an instrument. Others dance, craft, or cook. We experience cultural expression through our youth in schools, in our faith communities, and through our unique cultural traditions. Even those of us who claim that they “don’t have a creative bone in their body” have a favorite song, movie, book, or meal.
But what does it mean to support creativity as a community or as a city? Cities across the country and the world have identified many reasons to support arts, creativity, and cultural expression. From economic development and downtown revitalization to public health, education, and even local identity itself, cultural arts can be a key contributor.
Traditionally, it is well understood that the arts can play a central part in tourism, and cities across Iowa have recognized and celebrated local “cultural districts,” which draw visitors from across the region, state, country, and world. Cultural arts attractions and activities have been proven to drive trips and hotel stays, which brings more money into the community in a variety of ways. Infrastructure and activities such as public art, performing arts, heritage attractions, and more can contribute to a city’s tourism draw.
The arts and cultural expression also improve the quality of life for residents. Access to cultural and creative expression helps build better civic relationships and networks, reduce isolation, and increase pride in neighborhoods and communities. Cultural expression can be an opportunity for different community members to see and celebrate each other, building social cohesion.
These outcomes are positive and desirable in their own right. Additionally, from a city growth perspective, the pride and enthusiasm that creativity and cultural expression engender can help make communities more attractive to newcomers, which can increase wealth, property values, and opportunities for longtime residents and newcomers alike.
Fine Art and Cultural Events (FACE) of Mahaska County is making a home for the arts in Oskaloosa alongside the Arts and Culture Roundtable organizations and the Mammothly Creative project working to ensure access to the arts for all community members.
Arts-based community development practices have come to the forefront nationally over the last ten years under the umbrella term “creative placemaking.” This idea of bringing the arts into the center of how we develop our towns and cities is not new – from Greek theater, to turn-of-the-century municipal arts movements, to contemporary social arts practices, people have always sought ways to infuse deeper layers of community building and meaning-making into the ways they form their communities. Today we see cross-sector teams in the municipal and community development sectors working with artists and arts organizations to find out how they can partner on projects that can bring in community members in meaningful ways.
At their core, creative placemaking projects are about place – a place’s history, its people, and its stories. The best projects are rooted in local communities, with specific concerns, histories, economies, visions, and aspirations. Another essential element of creative placemaking projects is that they leverage the power of arts and culture strategies to help achieve the changes they’re looking to create - the arts are not an afterthought but are rather a core aspect of achieving the change. Bringing artists, arts organizations, and culture bearers to partner on issues where they may not have traditionally had a seat at the table allows new perspectives, new ideas, and new networks to emerge.
Today we are seeing an explosion of projects happening across all fifty states and a wide range of community issues and sectors. In each of these projects, partnerships between municipalities and artists and arts organizations are collaboratively creating place-based change. The critical component of each project is that the “creative” in creative placemaking is an adverb describing the making (or ‘keeping’!), not an adjective describing the place. In other words, arts and culture strategies become the way community goals are met, and the power that the arts bring to community equations can be seen in housing, transportation projects, public safety initiatives, and community health. Artists are becoming partners with local governments in furthering community goals.