By Joe Johnson
The city of Watkinsville recently participated in the first-ever More Than Murals Workshop, an intensive learning experience for using art to address community challenges.
The workshop, held in Thomasville from Feb. 22-24, was organized and sponsored by the Georgia Council for the Arts, the City of Thomasville, the Georgia Municipal Association, and the Thomasville Center for the Arts.
Watkinsville was one of only twelve cities in Georgia chosen to participate. The other cities included Canton, Cairo, Doraville, Griffin, Homerville, Milledgeville, Monroe, Sugar Hill, Tifton, Valdosta, and Vidalia.
A mural in Thomasville, GA
Each city team included three local leaders representing an arts organization, or artist in their community, a city manager, or a member of the city council, and a downtown program manager or tourism professional.
Mayor Pro-temnChristine Tucker, Councilman Jeff Campbell, and OCAF Executive Director Wendy Cooper were selected to replace Watkinsville.
The workshop featured what Thomasville has accomplished through strategic partnerships with artists, arts organizations, local businesses, and the city. After meeting with those responsible for Thomasville’s growth and seeing their arts-related projects, attendees participated in a crash course in creative placemaking and public art to learn how to plan and carry out effective arts- based programming. Each community team came away from the workshop with a specific arts- based strategy that addresses the challenges that each of their cities are facing.
A mural in Thomasville, GA
“Creative arts and placemaking within your community are more than what you just see in a mural, it is the creative placemaking of arts that brings in culture and vibrancy. It could be for Thomasville the bronze sculptures on the hunt the lost quail or the temporary art that we work with the Center for the Arts on bringing those types of things int o the community really activate quality of life,” April North, the Managing Director of the Marketing Communication for the City of Thomasville said.
While many people think of art as only a fun concert or a pretty mural, the arts can be a powerful tool for cities to use to address community challenges as well as to encourage economic growth.
“Creative placemaking emphasizes listening to community members and utilizing local arts assets to address community challenges,” said GCA’s Managing Director Tina Lilly.
“Creative placemaking strategies through the arts can be a catalyst to growing and transforming communities,” said GMA’s Community and Economic Development Managing Director Cindy Eidson. “We commend the leaders of these twelve cities on their participation in this workshop and their commitment to positively developing their community by integrating the arts.”
The Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) believes that artists are the
foundation of all arts based economic and community development successes in our state.
Following the workshop, The Georgia Council for the Arts announced that it would be supporting creative placemaking projects by offering each participating city an $8,000 grant. “We are pleased to be able to support arts projects in each of these communities, “said Georgia Council for the Arts’ Executive Director Tina Lilly. “These grants can be used to revitalize parks, build festivals to attract tourists, support arts education projects, or commission public art that brings