In the autumn of 2016, the City of Sparks formed its first Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Comprised of community members and people who specialize in the arts and culture industry, the committee was formed to help the city council figure out what is needed in regards to funding and support for the local arts and culture program in Sparks.
The committee is working to develop a strategic plan by seeking public input through a series of meetings. The first event was held in late January at The Generator followed by a second meeting at the Boys and Girls Club/Larry D. Johnson Community Center.
A couple of dozen people, a few teenagers, and City Councilwoman Charlene Bybee were in attendance to the second meeting, facilitated by Jeff Brunings of On Strategy.
“Today is designed to hear your voice on enhancing the sense of identity in Sparks,” said Brunings. “We are in the early stages of the public input process and set for early adoption in late spring. What we want to focus on today is, ‘What does success look like? What are the potential obstacles? What are the immediate opportunities on fast-tracking art and enhancing this community?’”
With a few idea boards up around the room, Brunings asked the audience what they think Sparks would look like five years from today. One person says she imagines more public art displayed around the community, making it more inviting. Another saw an opportunity to create partnerships spanning across all ages with nonprofits and businesses.
J Witt, president of Silverwing Development, is in the process of constructing a series of residential and commercial buildings including the Fountainhouse, The Bridges, and revitalizing the movie theater in Victorian Square.
“We are designing a concrete corridor that you can plant in, put art in, or do some other type of installation,” says Witt. Coming in the midst of development of Victorian Square’s resurgence, there may be opportunities for an arts and culture plan to be implemented. “We want to give flexibility to the development,” Witt added.
“The dominant thing we heard at The Generator is that our local artists need a central place, an epicenter to create,” says Brunings. “Using Victorian Square as a jumpstart for art could be great.”
Bybee added, “We’re super excited about this proposal and receiving tax funds to build a vibrant downtown with what J is doing in regards to lighting, architecture, and creating a district that people are drawn to. This is cool because we’re building it from the ground up.”
Witt said that Silverwing Development would love to turn the fountain (in front of the movie theater on Victorian Avenue) into a musical outdoor event- making it come alive- as well as offer dining along that corridor. “Art is a big part of that,” he says.
Brunings said another thing heard at The Generator is that the City needs to support the artist ecosystem and work to attract, retain, and foster the artist community. “Lower the barrier of entry, make it easier, is what they said,” said Brunings.
Community members then talked about how to reinforce the brand of the city through art and successful projects that other cities have launched to embrace and enhance their local community.
The group also talked about potential roadblocks in this strategic plan, which mainly goes back to funding. One person said, “People get freaked out when they see art, thinking that their tax dollars are paying for it. You need total transparency throughout the process,” she adds.
Bybee says, “We need to work with the people so they understand the value of bringing in art; connecting the community.” Brunings then asked the group what the best ways are in keeping the community informed and engaged about this process.
Local artist Pan Pantoja shared a story about how one town built a 300-ft. sculpture of a turtle and every single kid contributed a piece to it. “There was total involvement, and word spread,” said Pantoja.
Witt added, “You really need to think of the size and scope of public art. [Silverwing Development] needs a plan to work towards so that we can knock off some of these projects while building.”
To conclude the second public input arts and culture strategic session, Brunings asked the group what the first word is that pops into mind when describing art in the community. Some responses were, “inspiration, energize, renaissance, stimulating, symbolic, revival.”
The third Arts & Culture strategic meeting will be held this evening from 6pm-7:30pm at the Sparks Heritage Museum followed by a Feb. 18 meeting at Red’s Golden Eagle Grill.