The Main Street movement/program has taken hold in cities big and small in just about every state. The driving force behind this movement focuses on revitalization of communities across the state and asset in economic development to help build healthier and stronger communities. Although beautification and creating appealing environments is part of the main street guideline, often main street programs tackle art and design on their own separate from local art councils and organizations. But for small towns, and larger, this can create unnecessary strain on financial resources when main street programs could easily work with local art councils. Take the example of Wyoming, "Instead of re-creating the wheel, setting up another bureaucratic system for certification, and using staffing and financial resources, the Wyoming Arts Council has focused its efforts on working in collaboration with Main Street to have the arts be a part of revitalization efforts."(Lange) This partnership has already shown amazing promise and created successful change which is encouraging news. A partnership with the Arts can help us rethink the way we approach cultural districts but it can also add an artistic mindset to the Main Streets basic four point system of, organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring.
|Image from Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States|
(Article from ArtsBlog, Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States. By Michael Lange. Published February 18, 2014.)
Using cultural districts as a structure for arts and cultural activities is a central catalyst for revitalization efforts that build better communities. Many states and urban areas have setup structures, often through legislation, that promote cultural districts as a way to build vibrant communities that lead to social and economic development.
Getting to the end outcome – the arts playing a leading role in revitalization efforts – is a necessary endeavor, but setting up structures in the same way as urban areas may not be the best approach for a rural state like Wyoming.
Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with 575,000 people. Wyoming is better categorized as frontier or even remote. The largest populated city in Wyoming is the state capital Cheyenne, with a population just over 61,000 people. Of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000.
How can small populated states invest in the outcomes of cultural districts?
In Wyoming, the Wyoming Arts Council has joined in a strategic partnership with Wyoming Main Street which manages the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program. Located inside the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Main Street program assists Wyoming communities of various sizes and resource levels with their downtown revitalization efforts. Between fully certified and affiliate communities, Wyoming has fifteen active communities in their Main Street Program.
These downtown areas represent the city center, and in some cases, the entire city. Wyoming Main Street communities, in almost every case, would mirror what cultural districts would look like in Wyoming. Instead of re-creating the wheel, setting up another bureaucratic system for certification, and using staffing and financial resources, the Wyoming Arts Council has focused its efforts on working in collaboration with Main Street to have the arts be a part of revitalization efforts.
Although a marriage of convenience in many ways, the collaboration between the arts and Main Street is one of great synergy. Main Street is based on a Four-Point Approach of organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring. As outlined below, this approach to community development is a great fit for how those of us in the arts can approach building stronger communities. (READ THE REST HERE)
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