ArtCentral: How’s it going?
By Elizabeth Freer
Matthews Opera House, ArtCentral Manager
This month marks the halfway point for our Bush Foundation 2016 Community Innovation Grant, ArtCentral. A team of us have now been working together for a year to learn how the arts can be used a tool for addressing community challenges and opportunities, instead of just being viewed as entertainment.
Stemming from years of conversations in the community, it became clear that there was a need to create a more cohesive and inclusive model for community arts planning – one that works towards developing integrated programs across multiple platforms and organizations.
ArtCentral is using the grant funds to spark connections and conversations, and develop programs that bolster existing efforts and strengthen the fabric of our community.
With this grant, we have had the opportunity to innovate, to be creative, and to try new things. We have been able to ask the question, “What if we tried ______?” and then take a chance to say YES and try a new approach.
ArtCentral has been successful so far because not only has our ArtCentral committee said YES, but City Council has said YES, Black Hills State University has said YES, Spearfish Public Schools have said YES, social service agencies and clubs have said YES, and individual members of the community have said YES. We are a community that says YES!
Not everything has gone perfectly, but we have learned so much; this was the goal of this first year of the grant. We want to learn about our community, about how the arts can be used as a tool, and about what our community values.
Last winter we created a month-long makerspace in the Matthews Opera House – Cardboard Chaos – and it was a success! We learned that there is a need for free, creative spaces. Many participants had not previously been in the Art Gallery, but we know art is for everyone!
Last spring, we started working to put art on those things that typically divide us – fences. Through Linking Fences the entire community got involved, even if just by talking about the project or enjoying one as you drive by. Linking Fences continues, more projects are underway, and we hope to see more come to life. It is easy to say YES and get involved.
We – collectively – took a chance on painting the pavement this summer. The interactions that took place around the three days of painting at the Grant and Canyon intersection made the effort worthwhile. Our community engages with art! Thanks to support from the City of Spearfish and Sherwin Williams, we implemented our learning and painted again near City Park, and it worked!
So now we move into our second year of ArtCentral and there are many exciting projects and programs in the works! We are looking forward to broad community involvement in our upcoming winter makerspace; a film series in early 2018, co-hosted by ArtCentral and Rotary Club, and other community organizations; forum discussions; and a culminating project that highlights art in our community. And there is more to come!
Have you been a part of the conversation around art this past year? Do you view the role of the arts in our community a little differently than you did before? Are you surprised? Take a chance on saying YES; come join us as the adventure continues. We need you to participate!
ArtCentral is a community collaboration, funded by a 2016 Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant, to centralize the arts as an integrated asset for inclusivity, economic development, and outreach in Spearfish. As this is a community-based project, we welcome feedback and suggestions, as well as volunteers. Please contact us by email at [email protected] if you are interested in volunteering or have suggestions.
Lead by Elizabeth Freer, ArtCentral manager at The Matthews, the project brings together a committee of advocates, artists, and residents working together over two years to create a new model for arts planning and outreach, focusing on the themes of belonging, inclusion, equity, rural connectedness, cultivating creativity, imagining space, and the arts as a community development catalyst.
“I am excited for this opportunity to work in Spearfish with The Matthews on this innovative and important project to advance the arts in our community,” stated Freer. “I encourage local residents who are interested in participating in this process to apply to be a part of the committee.”