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|25 April 2005|
Published in the Columbia Tribune 15 May 2005
It Takes a VillageThe concept of the artist's enclave is an old one. You get a lot of creative people concentrated in one place and an interesting dynamic occurs: Those creative people feed one another ideas and energy, inform one another's aesthetic, and in short order the enclave has a palpable creative energy. That creative energy then attracts other artists, writers, and musicians. Soon, businesses who cater to those creative people come into the area, cafes and coffeeshops move in, and an economic boom is born. It doesn't take long before people who may not be artists themselves, but enjoy living in that kind of artistic environment, move in and fuel the boom. It's happened countless times in history and around the globe, is part of the idea behind the modern University, and has helped to resurrect any number of blighted urban areas in America's cities.
Susan Taylor Glasgow wants it to happen here.
Susan is a famous artist. Well, reasonably so, anyway, with her work winning multiple awards in nationally juried shows and commanding the sort of prices in galleries in New York and elsewhere that Columbia isn't used to seeing. You can check out her work at www.taylorglasgow.com. But she lives here, and because she lives here, she wants to turn a struggling part of Columbia into an artist's village.
She isn't the only one. In fact, there's a group of about a dozen artists who have dubbed themselves the "Village Art Team." It's a group which has its inception in the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association efforts to revitalize and enhance the beauty of that neighborhood. Susan and her husband Brian have long made their home in this area adjacent to downtown and know that it would be a great place for other artists to settle. Homes here are just about the least expensive in town and first-time buyers could benefit from a variety of incentives available from lenders. That would be great for area artists, since most arts professionals tend to be towards the bottom of the economic totem pole, and can use all the help they can get.
It's an area that has a lot to offer, beyond just inexpensive housing. It borders downtown and includes Columbia College. Access Arts is within easy walking distance. There are commercial and warehouse spaces which would be suitable for converting to either personal or communal studios. There are some small parks which would benefit from sculpture, something that the "Village Art Team" would like to promote throughout the neighborhood. But that's for later.
"We are just starting out, and our first step is to print some literature with all the reasons artists should consider buying a home in "The Village." That should be done soon," says Glasgow.
People who own rather than rent have more flexibility in what they do with their homes. Establishing a private sculpture garden is tough on property that isn't yours. So is building a separate studio space. But if you own your own home you have more freedom to do those sorts of things. Glasgow and her group hope that fairly quickly "The Village" will take on a distinctly artistic feel, as those sculpture gardens pop up and homes sprout more artistic decoration. Once artists are buying homes in the area the rest of that economic dynamic should start to build, helping to reinvigorate the whole neighborhood.
"Our next task will be to create artistic markers establishing the boundaries of The Village," says Glasgow, looking ahead. This sort of definition is important as it provides a natural focus for gathering together like-minded creative people. Things like commissioning neighborhood artwork or getting grant support for other endeavors will come later.
Interested in being part of an artist's enclave? Here's an invitation from Susan Taylor Glasgow: "Our next meeting for the Village Art Team is May 11 at the library at 5:30. We meet in the back conference room on the 2nd floor."
all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
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