Saturday, January 25, 2014

Artspace comes to Cheyenne Jan. 29

Cheyenne's downtown needs help.

I'm not the first one to say that. The lead editorial in today's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle said it. So has our mayor, city council people and just plain folks such as you and that person standing next to you.

Artspace, by itself, doesn't have the only answer to a vital downtown. But it can help. And it's good to see action replace complaining.

This Minneapolis-based organization's mission "is to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations." It has helped cities from Minot, ND, to Fort Lauderdale rehab old spaces into thriving live/work spaces for artists. On Valentine's Day in Loveland, CO, Artspace will be part of a ground-breaking for artist residences at the old Loveland Feed & Grain Building, part of new arts campus. Loveland once was known as Fort Collins' sleepy southern cousin. Then it carved out a niche as a hotbed for sculpture, and now it boasts a downtown focused on the arts.

The Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority and Arts Cheyenne propose to partner with Artspace to create downtown spaces for artists to live, work and collaborate. Plan to attend one of the meetings on Wednesday, Jan. 29, to share your ideas with Artspace, and to hear what the organization can do for our downtown.

Here are the public meetings:

11:45 a.m.: City Council and community leadership work session at the Historic Plains Hotel, 1600 Central Ave.

2 p.m.: Artists and arts organization focus group, Old West Museum, 4601 Carey Ave.

5:30 p.m.: Public meeting, Plains Hotel Ballroom.

The 2 and 5:30 p.m. meetings will include a summary of Artspace artist survey results, possible sites for Artspace in downtown Cheyenne, and PowerPoint loop presentation on arts organizations.

Not every Artspace visit leads to a project. As an Arts Council staffer, I attended an Artspace session in Casper that did not lead to a project. However, it started the ball rolling on the revitalization of the city's downtown and its adjacent Old Yellowstone Historic District. The Casper Artists' Guild has designs on an old downtown warehouse and is halfway to its fund-raising goal of a million dollars to purchase and rehab the structure which it will share with a business, possibly a brewpub. The Nicolaysen and the city and a private developer teamed up to replace a crime-ridden apartment complex with LEED-certified low-income housing units, a public plaza and a unique sculpture, with funding help from the National Endowment for the Arts.

I also attended the "Living Upstairs in Wyoming" conference in Sheridan which explored the city's thriving downtown and the trend toward transforming the upstairs units of those buildings into living spaces. Sheridan's downtown is also home to dozens of outdoor sculptures. Cheyenne could learn a lot from its northern neighbors.

Southern neighbors, too: Loveland, Fort Collins, Greeley. Yes, I know that Wyomingites are intensely proud of the state and profess a dislike for its neighbors, "The Greenies." But it's self-defeating to not use all the ideas we can find to reinvent our downtown.

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