The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 19, 2011

Sharing the vision

Supporters of Enid Arts District say they will continue to advocate for the project

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Although progress toward getting a portion of the city dedicated as an arts district is slow, those who share the vision say they will keep working.

“My message to everyone is that we’re not going away,” said Julie Baird, executive director of Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse and a member of Enid Arts Council. “Enid has too much to offer to not have an arts district.”

Baird points to the number of museums, performance venues and art galleries in the community and to the festivals, art shows, Chatauquas, theater presentations, music performances and other exhibitions of arts that take place in Enid.

“We’re not sure that everybody in our community knows what we have to offer,” Baird said.

The effort to get a designated arts district in Enid began after the 2008 statewide arts conference was held here, Baird said. All of the arts entities of Enid worked together for the conference. Then a grassroots movement to obtain a designated arts district took shape, she said. About 150 people have said they want to be part of making that vision a reality.

One thing that has come out of the effort is the publication of a brochure, “The Arts and Culture of Enid, OK,” funded by Enid Arts Council and Enid Convention and Visitors Bureau.

However, city officials have not taken up the cause. The Enid Renaissance downtown renovation project does not include a designated arts district, and the city has not agreed to spend money on development of an arts district.

Funding is the next challenge, Baird said.

Those wanting to see a designated arts district have not yet drawn up a specific map of the proposed district, but it will be as inclusive as possible, Baird said.

“By far the greatest concentration of arts is downtown,” Baird said. “I think the arts district has designated itself.”

She believes the logical next step is to get the city involved.

Arts entice travel and tourism dollars to a community, Baird said. People come to see galleries, festivals and the like, and while here they dine at local restaurants and stay at hotels.

“It adds to the economic impact of the community,” Baird said.

But it’s not as simple as marking an area on a map. Baird said an arts district needs artists, museums, loft housing, distinctive dining and public art.

“To me, an arts district is a collaborative effort,” Baird said.

The problem of the moment is all the people involved are volunteers who have other jobs that must come first, Baird said.