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YAC, EDF to attend Creative Placemaking Summit

Staff members from Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and Oxford Lafayette Economic Development Foundation will travel to Chattanooga, Tenn. for the Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit this Thursday and Friday.

Representing YAC will be Executive Director Wayne Andrews and Outreach and Education Coordinator Meghan Gallagher. They will be joined by Allen Kurr, Vice President of EDF. The team was awarded a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission to attend the summit, during which they will learn methods to enhance existing programs and create new opportunities.

The organizations had to submit a joint proposal for a project that involved key topics of wellness, inclusion and equity all centered on the basics of creative placemaking that they wish to see implemented in their community. Andrews said the team’s goals for the summit are to create programming that will help the arts community make an economic impact in the LOU Community.

“Our goal is to encourage the community to think about how projects and programs can connect to the economic, cultural and overall wellness to the community,” he said. “Our project concept was to grow the Arts Incubator program to offer a collaborative creative space that is linked to the resources in the community.”

Out of teams across nine states, only 200 were selected for this forum. Andrews said the team’s prior work defines Oxford as an active community and creative place.

Creative placemaking is the practice of different entities working together to leverage culture and creativity of a community to direct growth and transform spaces intentionally.

Gallagher said creative placemaking is a concept that makes sense in a place like Oxford.

“It’s capitalizing on Oxford’s strengths, particularly arts and culture, and looking for creative solutions to social challenges,” she said. “The Powerhouse, for example, was transformed into a thriving arts center in 2008 and event venue after serving as the power plant for the city and as a storage warehouse. The Old Armory has similarly been transformed into a community space hosting a weekly farmers market and varied events, frequently community-wide ones.”

In addition to expanding the Arts Incubator, another one of the team’s goals is to grow the Big Bad Business Series, a collaboration between YAC and EDF aimed at growing small businesses in North Mississippi, whether they are arts-based, nonprofit or traditional for-profit models. The workshops help attendees, some of whom have never taken a business course, develop a business idea and test products without putting them at an economic disadvantage.

“We have a great partnership with the arts council through our collaboration on the Big Bad Business Series,” Kurr said. “This summit will help us learn from successful communities, chart a path to build projects that fit Lafayette County and energize us to work toward our goals.”

The summit is funded through the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, National Endowment for the Arts, Southarts and ArtPlace. Teams who participate for the entire weekend will be eligible to apply for a Southarts grant, which will go towards expanding the Arts Incubator.

During the summit, team members will have the opportunity to attend various workshops aimed at problem-solving and expanding projects. One workshop in particular is “Creative Placemaking in Small Towns and Rural Areas.” According to Gallagher, this workshop will help with outreach, because YAC aims to serve all of North Mississippi, not just Oxford.

“I plan to listen and learn as much as I can about the best practices in other communities, so I can apply them here,” she said. “We’ve been fortunate to partner with groups in Abbeville, Pine Valley and Marks to serve families and children who might not receive art as part of their school curriculum.”

She also added that YAC is partnering with LOU Reads and the Excel by 5 Coalition, taking the mobile literacy bus to Harmontown and other rural areas to share arts programming.

The opportunity to increase the economic impact of the arts in the LOU community is one that Andrews, Gallagher and Kurr said seems logical, given past statistics.

For example, in 2016, arts programming brought over 220,000 people to Oxford, and those people spent over $11 million.

“YAC wouldn’t be successful without its gifted artists and members,” Gallagher said. “As a community, we should absolutely encourage small business entrepreneurs because they are drawing people to Lafayette County. It makes sense economically.”

For more information on the Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit, visit https://www.cplsummit.org/southeast.