Michael Lange

Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States

Posted by Michael Lange, Feb 18, 2014 1 comment

Michael Lange

Michael Lange Michael Lange

Using cultural districts as a structure for arts and cultural activities is a central catalyst for revitalization efforts that build better communities. Many states and urban areas have setup structures, often through legislation, that promote cultural districts as a way to build vibrant communities that lead to social and economic development.

Getting to the end outcome - the arts playing a leading role in revitalization efforts - is a necessary endeavor, but setting up structures in the same way as urban areas may not be the best approach for a rural state like Wyoming.

Laramie Mural picture 3 Laramie, WY Mural

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with 575,000 people. Wyoming is better categorized as frontier or even remote. The largest populated city in Wyoming is the state capital Cheyenne, with a population just over 61,000 people. Of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000.

How can small populated states invest in the outcomes of cultural districts?

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Arts Council has joined in a strategic partnership with Wyoming Main Street which manages the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program. Located inside the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Main Street program assists Wyoming communities of various sizes and resource levels with their downtown revitalization efforts. Between fully certified and affiliate communities, Wyoming has fifteen active communities in their Main Street Program.

These downtown areas represent the city center, and in some cases, the entire city. Wyoming Main Street communities, in almost every case, would mirror what cultural districts would look like in Wyoming. Instead of re-creating the wheel, setting up another bureaucratic system for certification, and using staffing and financial resources, the Wyoming Arts Council has focused its efforts on working in collaboration with Main Street to have the arts be a part of revitalization efforts.

Although a marriage of convenience in many ways, the collaboration between the arts and Main Street is one of great synergy. Main Street is based on a Four-Point Approach of organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring. As outlined below, this approach to community development is a great fit for how those of us in the arts can approach building stronger communities.

Laramie Mural Picture 2 Laramie, WY Mural

1) Organization. Having artists involved in organizational structure brings a different frame of reference to the table, one that comes from a creative viewpoint. Additionally, artists volunteer in their communities, giving both their time and experience.

2) Promotion. Arts and cultural events help to promote a positive image of a community. Adding these types of events to Main Street initiatives will make downtown areas stronger, driving more economic development.

3) Design. Artists understand design, and thrive in making beautiful spaces. Having artists involved with city planning, development, and engagement, will create innovative ideas and support for community projects.

4) Economic Restructuring. The arts are an industry on their own, but combined with other successful businesses; the arts can help bring in a diversified set of consumers. Having a strong arts and cultural presence adds to the livability of a community, making it a sought out community to live in, not just for artists, but all occupations. Additionally, areas with strong cultural and arts institutions drive cultural tourism, which adds another dimension to an already diversified economic blueprint.

Although collaborative projects can be simple in scope, the implementation of the projects serves many different outcomes. For example, art bike racks that beautify a downtown district while clearing cluttered bikes on public sidewalks, promoting biking instead of driving which leaves more parking for out of town visitors. Mural projects are another great example: they add to beautification efforts and engage the local arts community, while turning an unappealing space on the side of a rundown building into a sought out destination.

Laramie Bike Racks 1Although two fairly traditional ideas, these types of dual purpose arts collaborations are endless. By having artists involved in the Main Street four point approach, downtown areas in small rural states can focus on the outcomes of cultural districts to help build stronger, more beautiful communities without being forced to re-create the wheel. The Wyoming Arts Council is excited about growing this sustainable partnership with Wyoming Main Street.

1 responses for Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States


February 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Rust Belt Chic; Greater Cleveland expands role of being the International Center of the Environmental Arts Movement to foster civic identity, cultivate jobs and tourism, and brand Ohio Environmental Arts and Culture District in the Bioregion”

In 2012, as part of the 25 Year Iceality Silver Revelation, the Greater Cleveland Area was "branded' as the Global Home of the Environmental Arts Movement by American Cultural Ambassadors David and Renate Jakupca of the the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) as a ‘Cultural Industry’, to foster civic identity, cultivate jobs and tourism, and brand Ohio Environmental Arts and Culture District in the Bioregion”

The Global Home of the Environmental Art Movement is recognized as the historic ARK in Berea , located in the region in Northern Ohio that is noted for its growing concentration of Sustainable Design and Technology Industries. Geographically, the region occupies the northeastern part of Ohio, an area stretching from the south end to Akron-Canton, Lorain in the west and Youngstown in the east.

It is visualized as the cradle for many of the world's largest technology corporations, as well as thousands of small start ups working on a sustainable future. The term ICEALITY refers to the region's original innovator, the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA), the environmental arts pioneer, but it eventually expands to all sustainable practices, and is now generally used as a metonym for the global cultural of peace sector.

Since 1987, the success of ICEA has spawned a number of other Peace/Environmental Centers throughout the United States and the World, but ICEA continues to make the north coast a leading hub for innovation and development. This question may have occurred to many people's minds when they came across the term ICEALITY. While its meaning is mostly unknown to them, the revolutionary ideas and developments which have been made in this term affect everyone’s daily life, and it is hard to imagine our modern civilization without them. Greater Cleveland is now recognized as the heartland of the Environmental Peace Industry which is based on the ‘Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts.

Iceality saw the "development to the LEED program, the Worlds Children Peace Monument, Urban Lakefront Development and has generated a lot of information on elements related to climate change, population and human rights.

David Jakupca, asserts that, "Respect for human and environmental rights and greater understanding between people from different racial and religious backgrounds must be the first goal of society in today's fast-changing, globalized world." The goal is accomplished according to Jakupca, "Is by focusing on the creative process and affirming to the principles of the "Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts".

The Theory on Environmental Arts (ICEALITY*) was enthusiastically embraced by the United Nations by 1990 and was featured in many of their World Conferences;
1- 1992 Earth Summit on the Environment, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2- 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, Austria
3- 1994 World Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt
4- 1995 World Conference on Women, Beijing, China
5- 1996 Habitat II- UN Conference on Human Settlements, Istanbul, Turkey
6- 2000 World's Fair, Expo2000, Hannover, Germany
7- 2001 World Conference on Racism, Durban, South Africa
8- 2002 World Summit on Sustainability, Johannesburg, South Africa
9- 2003 World Conference on Peace, Verbania, Italy
10- 2005 World Conference on Peace, Verbania, Italy
11- 2007 World Peace Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The result of this major global public promotion at the United Nations level, is that the Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts is now considered as the cornerstone of the modern sustainable global Environmental Art Movement and this concept is now replicated by artists, architects, urban planners and sustainable organizations throughout the World, reflecting a still growing global audience.

Looking at our over populated society in which Sustainability has become a necessity against Ecocide, the crucial role of Iceality in the Environmental Arts and Design Revolution becomes even more evident.

This also makes Iceality a philosophy meaning that there is hope for Humanity after all, and that improvements in our Society can take place daily. American Cultural Ambassadors David and Renate Jakupca see it as a transformation from the rust belt to a place where, "Economics and Culture combined with leading edge technology and thriving entrepreneurship, financial investors and pioneering organizational styles provide the background for the most profound inquiry ever into the Nature of Peace that will affect our planet’s very evolution for centuries to come."

They would like to convey the image of ICEALITY as the nucleus of the modern sustainable agenda for saving our Planet, presenting the most important developments of major elements which comprise the future which is the relationship between Humans and their Environment through Design and Culture, ultimately promoting an effective sustainable global Culture of Peace between all Living Things in the Human, Plant and Animal Kingdoms.

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