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The historical Paramount theater houses the Austin Area Commission for the Arts which seeks to promote the arts events of Austin!
©Solid Rock Photography

Sometimes one goes to a meeting and comes away really invigorated. And other times, we just will not go there because the Austin Area Arts Commission held a great community development meeting on January 26 which will propel the arts community onto a parallel track with the Vision 2020 Community Development Initiative underway in Austin.

Michael Charron, Dean at the School of the Arts at Saint Mary's University, and Tom Borrup, President of Creative Community Developers and “a leader and innovator in community building for 30 years” with an emphasis on “cultural asset mapping and leveraging cultural resources for economic development and civic participation,” led a workshop for Austin art leaders to help them develop a long range arts plan which would coincide with the Vision 2020 development plans.

At this meeting, Tom presented some of the material that he put together for the International Symposium of Seoul for Seoul Art Space. The Seoul Art Space “tries to serve the needs of artists and the local community, of Seoul by reviving abandoned and idle buildings and reestablishing them as venues for both art creation and wider cultural engagement.” Interestingly, that is what Austin is in the process of considering as well. In his presentation of how the arts can be a larger economic engine for an area. Tom shared how other towns like Paducah Kentucky, Providence Rhode Island, Seattle Washington, and North Adams, Massachusetts, underwent vital economic reform based around their arts community.

Tom shared how those communities underwent their revival. It started with horizontal networks, artists banning together to make a difference--economically, socially, culturally--thereby creating social capital. This went further with receptivity to diversity and creativity within the communities. Furthermore, this fostered pride in place or what is called place branding within the community development field. This developed improved critical thinking with an emphasis on local leadership in community development.

After a short break, Tom facilitated a community planning session based around what the Austin arts community can do. With two index cards per person the attendees wrote down what places they went to as children that felt safe and why. The other card, the same thing but when they were adults. From there, Tom helped process that into more succinct information that the arts community could use to help the Vision 2020 Steering Committee!

This was a fantastic meeting that brought together a selected group of people to help develop a profitable economic engine that will become a key player in the larger community development plan already underway in Vision 2020! Eventually, the two planning processes will merge into a uniform development plan for Austin.

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