Picking winners in the creative arts (BEST PRACTICE)



CraftNet is an international network of community colleges that develops artisan-based strengths. Cluster guru Stu Rosenfeld facilitates the network, which has an excellent newsletter. Cockatoo fields lots of enquiries on their behalf. Go to www.rtsinc.org/craftnet/index.html. One of their recent stories is illuminating!


In the 1980s, Paducah’s Lowertown district (Kentucky USA) was dominated by slumlords and drug dealers, a blight on the city. One local artist – Mark Barone, a painter who moved to Paducah in 1989 – learned about an earlier successful effort in Rising Sun, Indiana to attract artists with real estate incentives.


He convinced the mayor and city to package a set of real estate incentives for artists to recruit them to Paducah, including a $2,500 reimbursement for design or renovation costs, 100 percent financing of low-interest loans for existing structures, and a number of free lots for new construction.


After placing ads in art magazines, the city attracted dozens of artists. Since 2000, about 70 artists overall have participated in the program. The Lowertown neighborhood today has 22 art galleries and studios, has attracted attention from Governing Magazine, and, in May 2008, the New York Times featured Paducah in its Travel Section, describing “How Artists Came to the Rescue of an Ailing Kentucky Town” and drawing comparisons to New York’s Upper East Side.


The incentives are now open to chefs as well, in an attempt to expand the city’s culinary arts. Efforts also are underway to raise the capital needed to establish a Paducah School for the Arts.

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