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City Staff and Public Attend Arts Districts Presentation

Imagine if Auburn was a hub for artists and creative professionals, and the city attracted thousands of tourists who spent millions of dollars every year. Some members of the local arts community believe it can happen, and they are pointing to a small city in Kentucky as their evidence.

Schweinfurth Memorial Arts Center director Donna Lamb, Mack Studio Displays project manager Hilary Ford and Auburn Public Theater director Angela Daddabbo gave two presentations in August at the APT about how they believe establishing an arts district and encouraging artists to relocate to local residences could improve Auburn’s economy.

Throughout the presentations, which took place during and after the weekly city council meeting, the three speakers examined Paducah, KY, which revamped its downtown business district and neighborhoods through the arts.

The city, which has a similar population as Auburn with 27,000 people, boasts millions of dollars in annual tourism revenue thanks to a number of public and private art initiatives, Ford, Lamb and Daddabbo said. And they believe some of those can be successful here.

Ford, who was raised in Paducah, said the city is very similar to Auburn in a lot of ways. “It’s not any bigger. The demographics aren’t different,” she said during the presentation.

Between 2001 and 2007, the city of Paducah invested about $3 million in projects and initiatives related to the arts and saw almost $40 million spent by organizations, visitors and artists in that same stretch. One random property worth $715,000 in the downtown area in 1987 is now worth $4 million.

A number of factors led to the city’s economic success, the speakers said. Paducah hosts a national quilting festival and is home to a major quilting museum. The city and private businesses invested in numerous public art initiatives and beautification projects, including a series of murals on a wall built in the 1930s to prevent flood damage.

The neighborhoods are tied together by an arts district that boasts multiple galleries and performance venues. And an artist recruitment program offered professional artists an opportunity to own homes in one run-down neighborhood practically free of charge in exchange for the artist’s commitment to invest in and fix up the properties.

“In 10 years, five really, I saw the city completely turn around,” Ford said. All three said this sort of thing can happen in Auburn if the city, local businesses, organizations and the residents themselves can all come together and commit to a similar concept.

An arts district can help tie together Auburn’s many cultural and historic sites that already exist, Lamb said. Private and public initiatives can help spur investments, as can changes to city codes and tax incentives, she said. According to the group, this would improve the city’s quality of life.

Lamb said the city listed similar priorities in the 10-year master plan released last year. And the city council is looking to overhaul some of its codes and zoning policies in the coming years.

“We’ve already done a lot,” Lamb said. “But there’s a lot of potential to move this along even further.”

After the council meeting, Mayor Michael Quill said he was impressed with the presentation and the three speakers’ enthusiasm for improving Auburn through the arts.

Quill said he believes it could be possible with a strong commitment from the city, private sponsors, citizens and arts organizations. Though local initiatives would need to reflect the local community, he said. “I feel something similar is very logical and doable,” Quill said.
—The Citizen

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 @ 3:45 pm by Curt
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Auburn Beautification Commission Encourages Community Partnerships

Developing partnerships between Auburn and area businesses is a great way to help improve the quality of life in the City, and Auburn Beautification Commission would like to see a new program be expanded to its full potential. Under the direction of the ABC, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the City, Dickman Farms recently “adopted” the gazebo across from City Hall and spruced the area up with an array of colorful plantings. A small sign tastefully denotes the sponsor of the project.

There are limitless opportunities for similar projects around the city, and ABC encourages business, social clubs or any group of interested volunteers to look for ways that they might get involved. Details are still being finalized, like contractual obligations for upkeep and maintenance, and liability issues related to people performing work on City property. Aside from that, the sky’s the limit for future projects, and it doesn’t need to stop at planting flowers.

Other potential options could include a local service organization constructing a new playground. A small sign could say, “This playground brought to you by (club name here).” This is a small price for something that will have a real impact on people’s lives. The days of plump city budgets and large DPW departments have passed, but with the City, its citizens and businesses sharing the labor — and cost — of enhancements of open spaces, everybody wins.

Art Around Auburn

Another way ABC is working to beautify Auburn is supporting the creation and installation of public art projects in various locations in downtown Auburn.. On Founders Day, many attended the unveiling of Audrey Iwanicki’s metal sculpture installed on Exchange Street in honor of Ted Case. Now, another artistic medium- mosaics- will take center stage in making Auburn more colorful and inviting.

In April, artists Jesse Kline and Dave Tobin were funded by Stardust Foundation of CNY to take a mosaic training with Isaiah Zagar, in Philadelphia. That training led to another Stardust grant to create mosaics in Auburn. “We believe that the idea of mosaics, designed by local artists and put together by local volunteers, of all ages, are a way to bring members of our community together and also create local art that will last years and show off Auburn’s rich history and heritage,” said Guy Cosentino, the Executive Director of the Stardust Foundation of Central New York.

The team’s first stop is Angelo’s Pizza, a long-time staple for authentic flat-crust pizza. Angelo himself, was the inspiration for the mosaic, which will be located on the side wall of the business, facing the parking lot. Kline enlisted the talents of artist Amy Chamberlain to render the composition. “Chamberlain’s linear, contemporary style is a perfect fit for this project,” Kline shared.

Amy Chamberlain said, “I am very honored to work on this project that will bring a modern and interesting focal point downtown. While it would have been an obvious choice to commemorate local heroes such as Harriet Tubman and William Seward, this project celebrates an accessible local hero. Angelo’s contribution is now an institution. He’s a hard-working, everyday guy you could buy a slice from, in this lifetime.”

The mosaic artwork will compliment the existing painted mural across the way at Colonial Laundromat, as well as the Liberty Store’s mural located a block down. Angelo’s mosaic will further solidify East Genesee Street’s commitment to public art. The team will install the piece the first two weekends in August.

To keep the project green, and cut down on costs, Tobin and Kline approached many businesses for material donations. Broken tile, odd lots, open boxes or product samples will be saved from a landfill, and used in the composition. Business donors include Floors & Walls, Roma Tile, Whitings Wallpaper & Paint, Callahan Masonry Supply, Crowley Glass, McGlaughlin Glass, Image Agent and Real Deals.

Community members are also encouraged to donate materials towards the project. Plates, colored glass, mirrors, all types and textures of ceramic pieces- literally pieces, with a flat backside can be used. If interested in donating, or participating in the installation, residents should contact Project Managers Kline (jessekline31@msn.com) and Tobin (dttobin@gmail.com).

After Angelo’s is completed, the next stop will be Exchange Street. Complimenting the recently redesigned space, and further refining the look, the team will mosaic the smooth concrete low walls, that can be used for seating. Students participating in BluePrint II will be assisting with this installation in the fall.

“The great thing about these mosaic projects is that they will be assembled by volunteers of all ages. People will feel a sense of accomplishment they will savor for years, every time they see their mosaic,” said Project Manager Dave Tobin.

For more information please visit www.artforauburn.wordpress.com and www.beautifulauburn.org and join the Facebook Fan Pages for “Art for Auburn” and “Auburn Beautification Commission.”

Posted: Monday, August 2nd, 2010 @ 9:55 pm by Curt
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Auburn Beautification Commission & Downtown Auburn BID Upcoming Projects

Local organizations and individuals dedicated to making the City look better are gearing up for the summer season. According to the chairman of the Auburn Beautification Commission, this season will see some of the biggest projects yet, since their beginnings three years ago.

Commission chair Jim Kent told members at a City Council meeting about the Commission’s plans for this year, which include multiple public art projects and the rehabilitation of a small city park.

“I think we’ve made tremendous progress,” Kent said of the organization, which was founded as a city entity in 2007 before branching off as an independent not-for-profit.

The Commission sponsored a sculpture contest over the winter, and Kent said they received four proposals. The winning sculpture, created by Audrey Iwanicki, will be assembled during Founders Day, June 12th at the Exchange Street Mall, where it will remain for the public to view. (more…)

Posted: Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 @ 2:36 pm by Curt
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The Auburn Beautification Commission (ABC) is a dedicated to making the City of Auburn a more beautiful place to live. Originally an advisory group that formed in September of ’07, ABC is currently raising funds, planning, designing, and/or implementing nine beautification initiatives. The group recently became a not for profit 501-c-3 charitable corporation, allowing it to accept tax-deductible donations and membership fees. The commission can also apply for city grants.

For more information about the Auburn Beautification Commission, visit www.beautifulauburn.org, call 224-4586 or write to P.O. Box 1227, Auburn, NY 13021-1277.

In virtually every project, the ABC is partnering with one or more organizations, volunteers, and/or local merchants. (more…)

Posted: Tuesday, July 1st, 2008 @ 10:51 am by Curt
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