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Michigan State University's Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D, talked about how to identify, promote and protect a sense of place in a community during the League's Region 2 Education Seminar on May 20 at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing.
Dewhurst discussed how our places connect us to the past and our community and cultural traditions, while keeping the local environment distinctive. During his talk on developing strategies to reach placemaking goals, he proposed key questions to ask.
1. To identify your community's sense of place, ask what is distinctive about your community, inventory your cultural resources and collect the vfoices and stories of creative people and businesses. Interactive web tools can be a tremendous asset in this process.
2. To promote your sense of place, think beyond the standard, conventional forms of artistic expression to consider aspects of creativity like food and event traditions. Authentic character should be promoted to create a more distinctive sense of place, Dewhurst said.
3. Protect your community's sense of place through historic preservation programs integrated with the living, creatve and cultural heritage of your community. Maximize your investment by using your cultural inventories to guide an adaptive use of your places and spaces.
East Lansing itself was a great example of many of the day's key themes. Its Hannah Community Center is the city's historic high school, rehabbed and repurposed into an attractive community facility. It was also the weekend for the city's annual art festival, which draws thousands of residents and visitors to the downtown and campus area for a celebration of arts, crafts, music, food and entertainment.
The seminar also included six great presentations for the Region 2 Community Excellence Award. Click here to read more about the CEA presentations.
The League's Andy Schor presented an update on Lansing, including the recent victory in securing more funding for revenue sharing and brownfield and historic funding. He also moderated a legislative panel featuring Sen. Rick Jones, Rep. Mark Meadows, Rep. Paul Opsommer and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer.
A media-savvy placemaking campaign called "Uncork Paw Paw" earned top honors as the Region 2 Community Excellence Award winner, at the Region 2 League Tour stop in East Lansing on Friday, May 20.
According to Paw Paw Village Manager Larry Nielsen, the community decided to build on its sense of place as a wine country destination, by launching a market and cluster analysis to identify a target audience and devise an effective strategy for promoting the region. At the same time, they created a proactive support system for new entrepreneurship and existing businesses, giving out more than $400,000 in grants in the past three years for everything from education and training to building facade and interior improvements.
The marketing analysis determined there are about 54,000 homes within 20 minutes of Paw Paw, and 114,000 within 30 minutes. They used that data to build an effective marketing strategy that reached 79 percent of 2010 festival attendees in the target region outside the Paw Paw zip code. Paw Paw's annual schedule of lakeside concerts and blockbuster events include an annual Wine & Harvest Festival, Harvest Moon Exgtravaganza, Art Hop and a vintage ball club. It has all added up to create a unique sense of place in Paw Paw as a wine country destination. The result: Paw Paw has added 27 new businesses, with another 43 renovated or expanded.
In receiving the award, Nielsen said he was gratified but more importantly, hoped it would serve as a do-able example for other communities seeking to build a sense of place based on their own unique assets.
"The recognition by your peers is always nice, but what I'm really excited about is that this is the type of program that many communities can easily do to capitalize on their assets, and find the same great success that we have," said Nielsen.
Paw Paw competed against five other impressive projects: the city of Adrian's "Rebirth of a Downtown" detailed the historic rise, fall and rebirth of the city's downtown; Coldwater presented its Connections Art Festival, a month-long series of events and programs that show the rewards of cultural economic development; Delhi Charter Township showed a video detailing how "Greening Delhi" has included a state-of-the-art biomass converter, aggressive and comprehensive recycling programs and other front-line green initiatives; Mason's city staff proudly presented its new city hall, the city's first truly "green" municipal building; and Tecumseh offered "Lean and Mean," an innovative, low-cost program to engage the community's youth by giving them cameras to shoot images of the community's best and worst features, then using that to launch a series of initiatives.
"Each project has its own merits so it's very, very difficult to choose," said League Board President and Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto, in praising the impressive array of presentations.
Paw Paw will now go on to compete against the other six regional winners for the statewide CEA at the League's Annual Convention Oct. 4-7 in Grand Rapids.
Check back later for more Tour news on the Region 2 Education Seminar!
LUDINGTON, Michigan - The Michigan Municipal League's 2011 Tour continues today with the Region 3 education seminar in Ludington. It begins at 10 a.m. so if you're in the area, please stop by - it's just $25 for League members. Here is the full agenda.
The event is one of several regional seminars the League is doing throughout the state as part of our 2011 MML Tour. The Tour culminates in October with the 2011 League Convention. Follow the tour on Twitter at #mmltour. The Regional Meetings give Michigan Municipal League members a chance to hear from League staff and state officials about the latest municipal-related legislation in Lansing and ways communities are becoming the types of areas where people want to live, work and play. The League is still accepting registrations from members for upcoming regional meetings: Marine City (May 18), East Lansing (May 20), Houghton (May 26-27) and Saginaw (June 1). View the full regional schedule here.
Thanks again to all those who have attended so far and for those of you planning to attend! We hope to see you—as well as those who weren’t able to attend the Region Seminar—at Convention Oct. 4-7 in Grand Rapids. Find out more about the MML Tour here: http://www.mml.org/events/regional/index.html.
Matt Bach is director of communications for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at (734) 669-6317 and email@example.com.
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