The Arts Alliance conducted a study to determine whether a creative center in Washtenaw County can be established and sustained for the long-term benefit of the arts and creative sector and community at-large.
The assessment confirmed that there is demand in Washtenaw County for creative centers – defined as shared spaces offering opportunities and assistance for artists and creatives to produce, perform and/or market creative products. However, the biggest impediment for sustainability turned out to be less about the availability of venues. Instead, it pointed to the fact that “creative want to create.” In other words, many artists and creatives thrive in shared work spaces but need assistance with space rental management, maintenance, marketing, eCommerce and other back office services.
In addition to examining creative center examples and financing models, the report goes on to make a number of recommendations. In particular it points towards Washtenaw County government and local municipalities with their roles as economic development drivers to take a leadership role in prioritizing the arts and creative industries equally alongside other industries in Washtenaw County in order to keep this sector competitive with other Michigan cities. Washtenaw County and the greater Ann Arbor area has been seen as a arts and creative destination. However as other communities such as Lansing, Grand Rapids/Kent County, Traverse City/Grand Traverse and Detroit are investing public revenue, Washtenaw County risks losing its competitive edge. This can be reversed if elected officials and public administer invest resources and set public policy to attract, retain and keep its arts and creative industries in Washtenaw County.
This Creative Center Assessment study was generously funded by the Washtenaw County government, under ACT 88 Local Economic Development, as part of its mission to foster economic growth in the county. It was also supported by the Michigan Council for Art & Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
As part of the ReImagine Washtenaw Avenue program, The Arts Alliance was commissioned to create a public art and design plan to compliment long-term redevelopment along the Washtenaw Corridor, the main thoroughfare connecting Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. The Arts Alliance surveyed area residents, workers and visitors to gather their input and hosted a number of visioning sessions to provide education on public art and design and solicit feedback from participants and attendees. Based on this community input and best practices in public art and design being utilized throughout the country, The Arts Alliance crafted the ReImagine Washtenaw Public Art & Design Plan.
Read about how The Arts Alliance serves Washtenaw County’s Creative Sector in the 2014 Annual Report.
The Ann Arbor Public Housing Commission appreciates that everyone deserves to live with dignity, in safety and with beauty. As plans are made for the North Maple Estates and Lower Platt neighborhood redevelopments, the Commission contracted The Arts Alliance to help current residents impact the design of their future home: a pleasant, healthful, artful and green residential community that reflects their history, culture and dreams.
With the goals of being respectful and sensitive to the complexity of moving residents to temporary housing during construction, building trust and helping the residents impact the design of their future home, The Arts Alliance conducted resident gatherings, including cultural advisors, translators, storytellers, photographers, videographers and visual artists, to allow residents to share their stories and provide input for the developments’ public art and design. Based on the residents’ input, created the Ann Arbor Public Housing Public Art & Design Infusion Plan, to inform the design and construction of the North Maple Estates and Lower Platt neighborhoods.
The Feasibility Study for Expanding Arts Education Programming in the Washtenaw County Public Schools was commissioned by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) and executed by the Arts Alliance of Washtenaw County. It was inspired by a long-time interest of both organizations in strengthening Washtenaw County’s already exceptional K – 12 arts education programming.
The Arts Alliance launched an initiative to understand the composition and economic impact of the creative economy in Washtenaw County. The Arts Alliance included an economic analysis as part of this initiative. Economic analyses can identify the strengths of a local economy as well as point out areas of concern. Although a consistent methodology has not been developed to analyze the creative economy, the Arts Alliance study followed economic methodologies that are typically applied to traditional industry sectors and include growth of industry sectors over time, location quotients, and payroll data.
The study identified industry sectors that included creative economy components. They were arts and entertainment; professional; information; manufacturing; and arts schools.
The Washtenaw County Cultural Master Plan is the result of an 18-month, community-based planning effort created through the participation of cultural, educational, civic, business, and government representatives from each of the county’s key population centers: Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Milan, Saline and Ypsilanti. The plan reflects the direct input of nearly 5,000 Washtenaw County residents as captured in an online survey, an artists’ census, a study of the area’s creative economy, and the 29 interviews and community forums. The cultural master plan is a strategic vision of the future that includes 34 Actions to be implemented over a five-year period.
The Washtenaw County Artists’ Census was administered by the Arts Alliance as part of its cultural planning project, Community & Culture: Creating a Plan for Washtenaw County. The census ran from April 1 though May 17, 2008 and was undertaken to establish a baseline number of artists living and working in Washtenaw County so that changes in this population can be measured over time. An additional goal was to build public appreciation for individual artists and give this sector increased credibility as a significant part of the community. In the six weeks the census ran, 2,530 responses from artists – visual, performing, and literary – that live or work in Washtenaw County were received.