Arts Drive Creamery District Visioning, Design Charette this Saturday, Sept. 8

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Small groups developed suggestions which were recorded by facilitator Fawn Scheer. Photos by KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

CREAMERY DISTRICT – Further refining their collective vision for vaulting its historic neighborhood into the 21st century, Creamery District stakeholders gathered at the Arcata Playhouse Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26.

The west-of-downtown area has been coming into its own recently, identifying its assets and trying to leverage them for a neighborhood makeover. July’s announcement of a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) “Our Town” grant further invigorated the process.

Jackie Dandeneau of the Arcata Playhouse, center, led one of the preliminary neighborhood tour before the assembled artists settled down to brainstorm their ideal Creamery District. Photos by KLH | Eye

The visioning session, dubbed an “artists’ roundtable,” focused on the artistic aspects of the process.

With about two dozen people attending, introductions included multiple persons involved in the arts – musicians, actors and actresses, visual artists and people associated with the theatre and Old Creamery building.

Along with the Playhouse, various craftspeople, the Kinetic Sculpture Lab, two jewelry designer/manufacturers and any number of minstrels live and work in and around the district, and the density of creative types there is all but unrivaled in Arcata. Their aesthetic values will likely form a central pillar as the process matures.

Shoshanna of Redwood Raks led the other tour, which circled the Old Creamery/Arcata Playhouse from the other direction.

Fawn Scheer of Greenway Partners facilitated the meeting. She listed the ideals which inform the process, including vibrancy, arts engagement, creative commerce, mixed-use development, safety and street improvements, green spaces and recreation opportunities and a local arts district with a unified, distinct and visible identity.

Goals for the day involved identifying the district’s artistic needs and including them in the evolving vision. That vision will underpin a neighborhood-wide renovation intended to create a Creamery District centered on the arts and what proponents call “creative commerce.”

The session kicked off with a brief but invigorating tour of the neighborhood in the crisp sunshine. The preliminary stroll of the ’hood gave attendees a sense of place, with the area’s history, unusual post-industrial architecture and other features identified.

This was followed by a slide show of various art-slathered neighborhoods in Arcata and elsewhere. Some of the scenes looked inviting, but attendees were interested in how the many murals and other artistic features truly integrated into the environment to meaningfully improve the quality of life.

Fhyre Phoenix suggested that a disused, three-story tower at the Creamery was “crying out” for a mural, but artist Willoughby Arevalo said the rough, weathered concrete walls were beautiful unadorned.

As participants formed three small groups for informal brainstorming, facilitator Scheer first asked that they discuss what tools, structures or other elements they would need to contribute to their artistic success.

After compiling their ideas, the groups were broken up and reassembled in different mixtures. Then they had to ponder a different question: how can you contribute meaningfully to “creative placemaking” in the Creamery District?

Ideas generated included having more storage space, better sound insulation to prevent noise pollution, “sound shells” for outdoor performances, a protected all-weather outdoor space, quality community gathering spaces, cheap live-work spaces, cooperative gallery space, expanded performing arts spaces, district-wide rent control, an artists’ marketplace, a public workshop space for educational activity, promoting interaction between artists via urban design, music rehearsal and recording space, maintaining “messy” and “loud” artistic endeavors in the area and having the former recycling center be a place for exchange of artistic supplies.

In terms of contributions, responses included creation of sculptures by individual artists outside their front doors, creation of a “wildly creative” archway to herald the neighborhood, participation in Arts! Arcata with performances and music, a sculpture park, creative ways to micro-grant, incubating new artists, festivals, banners, arts education classes, community improvement days, youth outreach and youth-oriented activities, service learning programs in partnership with schools, finding financing for paid staff members and an outdoor weekly music jam.

One attendee suggested informal community micro-granting via community gatherings. These would be hosted events offering a soup dinner and charging admission. Attendees would enjoy soup along with project presentations by aspiring artists. At the end of the evening, one artist would be selected and admission funds would be turned over to them as a micro-grant to fund their project.

Scheer’s next question for the attendees to ponder was, “What elements need to be in place to enable the arts to integrate successfully with business and industry in the district?”

After discussion, responses were gathered and posted. They generally emphasized process, stressing efficiency, communication, respect, representation, long-term planning and oversight.

Snacks at the event included cookies, chips, fruit and coffee.

There was no shortage of ideas for facilitator Fawn Scheer to write down.

Creamery District Design Charrette

Bring your pencils and markers!! The Arcata Playhouse is hosting a Creamery District Design Charrette on Saturday, Sept. 8. After morning coffee and tea at 9:30 a.m., the day’s events will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude by 3 p.m. You’re invited!

The district is exploring how it can create a community that centers on the arts and creative commerce. After a brief introduction, all participants will be invited to convene in small groups to draw their ideas. Several local architects will be on hand to help with drawing and translating your ideas into design.

No idea is too big, too small. Each group’s plans and sketches as well as proposed next steps will then be displayed for public comment. That’s you, too!

The Creamery District Design Charrette was conceived to continue our community dialogue that started with a visioning workshop on Feb. 5 and a public open house on April 25.

This charrette is supported by a grant from the Humboldt Area Foundation: Grassroots and the National Endowment for the Arts: Our Town, Playhouse Arts and by the generosity of several area businesses and the work of dozens of volunteers.

The Arcata Playhouse is an established arts organization that is vital to the cultural livelihood of Arcata and Humboldt County. Our mission is to use live performance as a tool to build a community that is inspired and empowered to work together for the common good.

Check the Playhouse website for more information or call (707) 822.1575.


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