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Photo provided by PAM RUBERT
Photo provided by PAM RUBERT

Opinion: Creative placemaking comes from the heart

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Recently, I walked into Jay Key Service on St. Louis Street, and a man at the service counter asked why my license plate reads “3D-ART.”

I told him my husband is a sculptor, and he said, “You know what this city needs is a sculpture park.”

Locksmith Tory Jay’s list continued: A big wall somewhere designated for street artists to legally paint murals and a building downtown where people could learn to make art late at night.

I was tempted to look over my shoulder to see if someone was cueing him. Ironically, I was there to have a key made for a building at the center of efforts to do just what he suggested.

A new partnership of the Springfield Regional Arts Council and the city of Springfield, the ideaXfactory, at Mill Street and Boonville Avenue within IDEA Commons, is at the center of plans to daylight Jordan Creek. The city strategically purchased the vacant building, 351 Boonville Ave., during engineering and environmental studies for the project and proposed SRAC develop an interim use for the building.

An SRAC special committee developed the concept of a space for site-specific installation art, which is difficult to exhibit in most facilities because of the need to close the venue for installation. The committee also identified as eventual goals the items on Jay’s wish list.

These also are the type of projects funded by ArtPlace, a collaboration of a dozen national foundations, six national banks and eight federal agencies to accelerate creative placemaking across the country.

To date, ArtPlace has awarded $26.9 million to projects in 46 communities – and Springfield’s ideaXfactory last week was named among 104 finalists out of 1,225 entries for an ArtPlace grant. Our team is working on a final project description.

ArtPlace defines creative placemaking as locally driven strategies to use arts and culture to bring new life to communities, make neighborhoods more livable and urban streets more vibrant, and encourage investment, new residents and new business.

I asked the locksmith if he was also an artist. Nope, he is a geologist who graduated from Missouri State University and likes to look at maps.

Holding up a cell phone, his co-worker displayed a photo of a street art stencil they both regretted was destroyed when the building next door was demolished. It was a painting of a man seated in lotus position, listening to headphones.

“Look where the headphone wires come from,” the co-worker said.

“He’s listening to his heart.”

One block west of Jay Key is a traditionally designed urban intersection, complete with symmetrical plantings, a commemorative bronze, flag poles and benches. What’s missing at John Q. Hammons Parkway and St. Louis Street? Public art and people. Despite recent investment and many people working inside four prominent office buildings, a hotel, convention center, tourism center and several restaurants all within walking distance, I never see anyone use those benches or linger in that public space.

In his TEDx Talk, “Build A Better Block,” community and transit advocate Jason Roberts describes grass-roots efforts to revitalize urban neighborhoods in the Oak Cliff community outside of Dallas. His methods to save a historic theater, create a bike-friendly district, and encourage pop-up businesses and street markets have inspired similar projects in more than 20 cities including San Antonio, Texas; Tulsa, Okla.; and Kansas City. His efforts also won a $23 million grant to bring the streetcar back to Oak Cliff.

Roberts recommends using local talent and know-how to develop lighter, quicker and cheaper strategies for temporary revitalization of streets and public spaces. His open-source ideas inspire people to think differently about how public places could evolve.

Local artists, cultural organizations and businesses working together can help revitalize our neighborhoods and make our city more friendly and livable. Bring your ideas to a forum sponsored by the SRAC, Springfield Public Works and Urban Districts Alliance at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Springfield Art Museum.

Pam RuBert is president of the Springfield Regional Arts Council Board of Directors.[[In-content Ad]]

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