Wednesday, Feb. 20 2013 5:27PM
Progress continues in downtown Lee’s Summit with a focus on the Arts
By Trisha Drape
This past year was filled with a number of accomplishments for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, from recording-breaking attendance and participation at nearly all of its annual events, to increased engagement from volunteers, merchants and investors, to the establishment of new committees, new endeavors and new collaborations.
Seeing countless people experience our award-winning downtown for the first time, as well as its nearly 45 eclectic specialty stores, dozens of dining and entertainment options, a range of services and more than 100 annual events, was a highlight for Main Street in 2012.
As more people who live and work outside of the Downtown Core begin to feel connected to the heart of our community, we are reaching new volunteers, sponsors and investors who realize their businesses and employees enjoy success and a high quality of life in part because of the revitalization efforts of Main Street.
Currently, part of those revitalization efforts focus on the cultural arts and entertainment. Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street has a bold vision for the future of our vibrant and dynamic downtown — and the arts and history are essential to its short-term and long-term strategies.
According to the National Governors Association in its “Arts & the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development” report: “The arts and culture have the potential to offer numerous benefits to state economies. Through the creative
industries, states have an opportunity to create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases.
“In addition, creative industries are contributing to the contemporary workforce, making creative contributions to industries’ products and services, and infusing culture into community development.
“By investing in the arts and incorporating arts and culture into their economic development plans, states can reap numerous benefits — economic, social, civic and cultural — that help generate a more stable, creative workforce, new tourism and more livable communities.”
Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street has begun its own initiative to incorporate the arts and culture into its many activities and events. Main Street’s arts, cultural and historic programming fosters a sense of place and of community, and it creates new business and builds stronger neighborhoods. The programming, which in nearly all cases is free and open to the public, runs the gamut from visual and performing arts activities to literary and musical performances, as well as historic presentations and farmers market entertainment.
One of the first steps in this initiative was to form the Main Street Cultural Arts Committee in June 2012. This new committee’s purpose is to create and implement cultural arts programming into the events Main Street currently organizes and to develop new activities to expose the community to all forms of the arts.
In just a few short months, this energetic and creative committee of visual artists, performers, writers, entrepreneurs and others, along with support from sponsors, has bought to the community:
• Fourth Fridays
• Two temporary, interactive public art pieces, including “The Giving Tree” and “Roly-Poly” sculptures by local metal artist Dave Eames.
• Street theatre, including performances of the brand-new play “Cellular Cenes,” written by local director Ben Martin.
• “The Spirit of Life,” a collaborative exhibit of paintings and poetry from local artist Tina Garrett and Lee’s Summit City Council member and poet Kathy Hofmann.
• Live visual art demonstrations during Art a’LIVE, which took place at the annual Downtown Days festival.
• A ballet performance from Heart of America Dance during the Mayor’s Tree Lighting.
• The new GardenWalk Lee’s Summit tour.
• Yoga in the Streets.
• A free Lee’s Summit Symphony performance.
These new events are in addition to the many other cultural activities Main Street already organizes, such as Music in the Park and the Farmers Market.
The Main Street Cultural Arts Committee has a number of new cultural and artistic activities planned for 2013 and 2014. The committee’s primary goal for FY14 is to partner with more businesses and more artists to increase awareness and participation in Fourth Fridays. Currently, Got Art Gallery and Mingle host artist receptions and new art exhibits from 6 to 8 p.m. every fourth Friday of the month. As the warmer months approach, various additional programming will be added to each Fourth Friday evening.
The Cultural Arts Committee also collaborates regularly with the local artist community, from visual and performing artists to writers and musicians.
Volunteers and investors are essential for the sustainability of these new Downtown Lee’s Summit programs, and Main Street is fortunate to have many stakeholders who not only donate their time to the organization, but who also have jumped onboard to support the Main Street Cultural Arts Committee and its initiatives.
Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street always welcomes new volunteers and partners in all of its revitalization and historic preservation efforts. For more information, visit DowntownLS.org or call 816-591-7039.