The arts have always played an important role within any community. From providing residents with an alternative way to reflect on events in their lives to spurring commercial activity for local business owners, the arts can prove to be a pivotal tool for any city to make use of. To this end, the City of Merced has continued its work with arts and culture organizations in town to harness the unique power that creative endeavours have to improve resident’s quality of life in a variety of ways.
In a recent interview, City of Merced Councilmember Kevin Blake noted as much. “Now more than ever, cities across California are feeling the loss of redevelopment funding that was once used as a tool to spur economic investment in downtown corridors” said Blake. “One new, emerging strategy to revitalize communities is the establishment of arts and cultural districts.” He went on to add that while these districts and events often start small, attracting residents to a centralized areas, by investing in their growth cities are able to boost business in the area and help stimulate the economy.
Among the many benefits offered by the arts, Councilman Blake specifically noted that events related to the arts and local culture help to increase trust of the local government, reductions in crime, community members taking it upon themselves to reduce blight that is present within an area, communities becoming more tight knit with one another as they engage in collaborative process together, and encouraging community ownership of local areas.
“The City of Merced sees these benefits as the perfect strategy to invigorate downtown Merced. The Council started out small, with investments in Art Hop and other events” said Councilmember Blake. “Recently, the Council established an Arts and Culture Advisory Commission to garner community involvement to recommend the new ideas and programs to further enhance our continued economic development efforts in the City.”
In addition to efforts that the city has pursued with the Merced Art Hop and the Arts and Cultural Advisory Commission, the City of Merced has also directed staff to work in collaboration with the Merced County Arts Council to explore future opportunities to establish an Arts and Culture District in Merced. “This will help draw additional funding to support a vibrant, thriving downtown” said Blake.
Currently the Arts and Culture Advisory Commission serves as an advisory body to the City Council, and meets on the second Thursday of odd-numbers months. The Arts and Culture Advisory Commission advise on matters relating on public art, art projects, cultural programs and activities, and the promotion of the arts within the City of Merced to help foster the arts in the City of Merced, and to help implement policy, programs, and standards for public art.