Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Meeting Notes - Artist Relocation Program

Tuesday, July 8 at 10:00 am
Economic Development Council - 100 SW Water Street in Peoria

Anaise Berry
Suzette Boulais
Marc Burnett
Jacob Grant
Sally Hanley
Dr. Jeffrey Huberman
Craig Hullinger
Tory Jennetten
Doug Leunig
Jessica Moroz
Michele Richey
Chris Setti
Ryan Spain
Stephen Stone
Mitch Williams
The Committee discussed the potential Artist Relocation Program. All persons interested in promoting the arts are invited to participate in the effort to create an effective program. A number of individuals have proposed that we start a program similar to the successful program in Paducah, Kentucky. The program is summarized on their web page at: http://www.paducaharts.com/

The Paducah program was briefly discussed. The City will sponsor a drive down to look at Paducah in October, tentatively Wednesday, October 1, 2008.
Doug Leunig stated that he believes that the development of the downtown Riverfront Museum and Caterpillar Visitor Center is essential to attracting artists to relocate to Peoria. Without a concrete representation of our deep commitment to creative endeavors, any hype that promotes the artistic advantages of relocating in Peoria will be viewed suspiciously by outside artists as lacking substance.

Leunig stated that there are several differences between Paducah and Peoria. First of all Paducah was a blank slate with little or no existing artistic community. There were no signs of neglect or apathy toward an artistic community. If anything the opposite was true in their desire to build a place that favors artists they were welcoming creative types with open arms. Paducah committed to make their community an environment healthy for artists to choose to live in. They did this not because they wanted to fill empty house, but because they believed in the power of the arts to enhance their community. One of the symbols of their commitment was to build the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center. The building serves a similar capacity as the Peoria Civic Center Theater but with an important twist. It was built with a mission to enrich and inspire the community. This statement taken from the Carson Center website speaks volumes about the intent and motivation of the people of Paducah. "By their nature, the arts embrace people of all income levels and cultural backgrounds; they eliminate traditional barriers and stimulate creative thinking that stimulates dialog and open communication, and accepts the notion that there are many ways to solve the same problems."

Leunig stated that there are many ways to solve Peoria's problems. We have begun the process by considering one solution that worked for one very different community from our own. He suggested that we use the talents of our citizens, starting with the concerned core of people that we are, to come up with solutions to fit Peoria's needs. We should begin with a list of objectives on which to focus. Are we selling real estate or are we enhancing our community? Do we want to educate our citizen's to the value of creativity or do we want new artists opening and filing new galleries? What do we want to do with existing Peoria artists to help them become more successful? What can local artists do to fill the void left by Sharon Reed's departure from District 150? Can we enrich the lives of our children without the passion that creativity instills? Leunig stated that he resolutely believes that we can and will find answers to the questions that need solutions. Everybody wants to live meaningful lives and this challenge offers us an opportunity to accomplish something greater than what we can as individuals.

The City has created a blog at http://artistrelocation.blogspot.com/ summarizing some of the programs that help individuals purchase homes with assistance from government with downpayment and lower interest rates. Other programs of interest can be found at http://Peoriaed.blogspot.com/ .
These programs are aimed at moderate income first home buyers, but would work well for artists just starting out. These programs could be shaped to appeal to artists. Other programs such as TIF and the Enterprise Zone could also help, although these are more appropriate for developers. City staff are working with developers who are interested in creating artist live / work space.

There are limited funds for developing an artist relocation program. The Economic Development Department of Peoria could provide $4,950 for the first year. We are looking for other sources in the community to provide additional funding. If anyone knows of anyone who might be interested with funding, please let them know. Economic Development does not have much time to put into this effort, so would likely use an Request for Proposal process to find an organization or individual who would create the program.

The Committee discussed areas where concentrations of artists were located. These include Water Street, the Prairie Center for the Arts, Peoria Heights, ICC, and Bradley University.The Committee noted that the community must support the arts for any program to be successful. The development of the downtown Museum and CAT visitor Center would be helpful.

The Committee discussed possible marketing and advertising efforts. The Committee also discussed the merits of meeting Mark Barone. Mark helped create the Paducah program, and is now a consultant working for communities who want to develop similar programs.

The Committee discussed what brings artists to Peoria. An attractive community with lower cost housing and interesting architectural character are some of the strengths. The ICC and Bradley University programs educate a large number of artists, few of whom stay in Peoria. They prefer larger cities with bigger art communities.San Antonio was discussed as a community that has created some good programs.

The next meeting is tentatively set for August 13, 2008 at 10:00 am at Bradley University. City Economic Development staff will try to line up Mark Barone or others familiar with the Paducah programs to discuss their efforts with the committee via video teleconference. Please invite anyone who would be interested and be of help in starting the program. For more information visit:


goessman said...

I think the committee/city needs to do their homework a bit more before trying to recruit new or additional artists from the outside to come to P-Town. First of all, Peoria truly has a large arts core. Meaning that there are alot of dedicated artists in all forms who lend whatever support they can to the cause. There are alot a artists living in Peoria and the area who make a living doing art and constantly are attempting to broaden the appreciation of the arts culture in Peoria. Quite honestly, before you go and round-up arts people to move here, do some research and you will notice that a large number of Peoria's strongest artists again of all forms are transplants to the area. They/we come here through various reasons, marriage and/or family, job related(Caterpillar, State Farm, Medical communuity etc.) and a host of other reasons. So, there is the base for creating a successful arts community...show support and keep the base of artists that are already here, in Peoria.

On another note, the only thing Peoria has in common with Paducuh is that they start with the letter P. Paducah, well, it is in Kentucky...need i say more? And if you again do the homework, you will notice that the big economic entities in P-town like Caterpillar, OSF, Methodist and UICOMP have been trying for years to scrap this misconception that Peoria is a "corn town" in order to lure professionals and the like to the area. They have been trying to enforce the idea/fact that Peoria is this nice average sized city that offers urban amenities like CULTURE in its people and in its entertainment/recreation etc. And the last I remember, Kentucky as a whole...(yes even louisville) is RURAL. So, how do we all think these big economic boosters wouls feel about a small underground development group trying to undermine these urban influenced efforts? my guess is they would not like that. Peoria is a great place for real arts, no Branson, Mo. like theater, no crafty visuaal arts scene and definitely not a lame music environment. Peoria is so close to Chicago that the focus needs to be in tune with that as an angle...not some down home corn pickin angle that will sink any hopes of an arts community. Omaha, Paducuh, saugatuch(?), you can have em'.

dougleunig said...

Doug Goessman is right. There are artists currently living in Peoria that have tremendous talent and for the most part almost no recognition or assistance from the city. Take Preston Jackson for instance. While he has a national reputation the amount of support he get outside of the art community is minimal. He maintains studio for twenty artists, teaches art to hundreds of children, supports one of the best live music venues in Peoria and doesn’t get one cent of the incentives that you are talking about for bringing in outside artists. He has only gotten one commission from the City of Peoria out of the 17 listed on his site. Five of his commissions have been in Chicago with the City of Chicago accounting for two of his pieces. Is it possible that Preston has a greater acceptance outside of his own hometown?

It is not just the fact that Peorians don’t have an appreciation for their local artisans, it is a fact that Peorians, in general, just do not appreciate art. Art is considered something that only special people posses and has little relevance to the lives of normal people. Or so it seems by the lack of enthusiasm displayed by the local media and by the lack of outrage over the demise of art programs in our schools. Art is not seen as essential to learning even though many studies have proven otherwise.

For a relocation program to entice new artistic blood to revitalize our community we will need more that financial incentives. We will need the existing arts community to support the idea and we will need the community support as well. This will only happen with visionary leadership. There needs to be a new awareness that values creativity. We need to unify our fragmented arts communities. And we need to recognize the role of creative thinking in fostering success. Let’s hear proposed solutions from the creative community.