Friday, October 20, 2006

Building A Network

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion this morning. The topic was "Strengthening Relationships Between Artist's and Post Industrial Pennsylvania Communities. Readers of this blog likely know by now that I think that the level of communication and team play among all levels of the arts community here sucks and I refrained from hitting people mainly because I think there are hopeful signs of change.

The aim of the project is to help post-industrial Pennsylvanian communities sutain and attract artists. For the most part they are working off a base of existing and fairly dated research and of course they "seriously want input" but will come up with the final study in a month. They used six cities as case studies-- Paducah, KY; Providence, RI; Santa Anna, CA; Sante Fe, NM; Toronto, Canada and Ashville, NC. This meeting the presenters showed thier initial findings which were pretty obvious and non controversial. In the next month they intend to delve into Pittsburgh's specific needs more fully. Many Pennsylvania towns have or are starting initiatives to attract artists, who have proven effective and pliable tools for gentrification efforts.I will try to hold my breath and temper untill the end. Clearly, the young people conducting the study are very sincere as were many of the others at the meeting.

1 comment:

John Morris said...

The following is a comment by Maggy Aston, who had some problem posting it.

John, please don’t get too cynical about art in the Rust Belt. It’s in a sad state, to be sure, but some community organizations are trying to promote the arts, such as the Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center ( in Washington, PA, and the re- development folks from Braddock. Both of these groups recently spoke at an arts conference in my own small community of Greensboro, on the Monongahela River.

Our town has been trying to attract artists to help save historic buildings and make the town more livable and interesting by encouraging artists and crafts people to establish businesses here.
Our First Annual Greensboro Art Blast on the Mon and Creative Communities Conference was a very successful event, with over 500 people attending.

The main goals of the Art Blast were to promote economic development, put regional artists in contact with one another, and introduce townspeople to the idea of community revitalization through the arts. As a result of the festival and conference, we were able attract two new artists to our small town: a stained-glass artist and a sign maker, both of whom have since purchased buildings here: the Davis Theater and the Nazarene Church and Parsonage, three of our largest buildings. Saving the Davis Theatre was a significant achievement for our town, as part of its very large roof had already collapsed. In addition to planning next year’s festival, we are working with our town council to acquire an historic brownstone schoolhouse for use as a community arts center, and we have just recently met with an officer from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development to initiate the grant-writing process for funding through their Elm Street Program.

Maggy Aston
Gallery Director
Manderino Gallery of Fine Arts
California University of Pennsylvania