BY EMMA PEPPER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, THE HUB
The ART26201 initiative kicked off in Buckhannon in 2015 when a group of community members recognized that with a greater focus on creative placemaking in their town, they would be better positioned to keep and attract new residents – especially young people and creatives like visual and performing artists. The presence and contributions of both young people and creatives can be vital to sparking the momentum that is needed to build community and drive economic growth for small towns.
The all-volunteer, community-run nonprofit group operates with about a dozen active members. Their team began issuing an annual 4-page print publication last year that has become a critical tool in raising funds to sustain their work as well as in increasing visibility for their projects and key accomplishments.
Through this publication, the team at ART26201 is able to show how a series of “small wins” can accumulate to create a significant positive impact on their community.
In their latest issue, there are stories about public art projects, special events like a block party and a young filmmakers camp, recognition for donations received, and others.
For the team at ART26201, their flagship project is the Art in Public Places Program. The group started by identifying 50 sites in their community that would be good locations to place public art projects. They work each year to chip away at this list – adding new projects as they are able to develop concepts, and then identify and secure the funds to complete them. The feature story in their publication this year is about a series of wildlife murals located in the Traders Alley Arts District in downtown Buckhannon that were designed by the renowned, native West Virginian artist Charley Harper.
The annual publication is included as part of a targeted mailing that is sent out to those who have donated to ART26201 in the past, and it is also distributed to small businesses in high traffic areas in Buckhannon so that visitors and residents alike can find it.
Buckhannon resident and ART26201 board member Bryson VanNostrand shared that the publication helps to increase the sense of professionalism for the organization’s work and assists with laying the groundwork for requests for donations and support for new projects.
About the ART26201 initiative, Bryson says, “We are intentionally focusing on our message to our kids, and are using the arts to project a colorful, progressive, and welcoming community image to them. Communities across West Virginia suffer from the exodus of its youth to more metropolitan communities, and we are actively trying to convince young people that choosing to stay in Buckhannon after graduation is a viable option. We’re seeing proof of headway with these public art projects as we find young people taking selfies in front of the artworks almost on a daily basis. We’re even seeing wedding, engagement, and baby shower portraits taken in the arts district. We want art to be part of our community’s daily conversation, and it’s rewarding to see how the public artworks are attracting folks organically.”
To find out more about ART26201, visit their website at www.ART26201.com.