Art of Community Building: Jenks
This case study is part of a series investigating the variety of ways that Oklahoma communities invest municipal resources and funding in the arts. These stories illustrate how these investments, big or small, can have a positive impact on citizens, civic pride, tourism, and the general well being of a place.
City Budget (2014): $22,976,562
2014 Census Data
Median household income: $84,758
Persons in poverty: 4.3%
High School graduate or higher (age 25+): 96.6%
Bachelor’s degree or higher (age 25+): 46.8%
From Local Arts Index
State Arts Agency Grants per county capita (2003-2009): $8.63
Total nonprofit arts organizations per 100,000 county population (2012): 13.51
Jenks, Oklahoma is the fastest-growing city in the state, according to the 2014 US Census data. During that year, Jenks’ population grew by 6.8%, even outpacing its nearby neighbor Tulsa, which saw just a .3% increase during the same time period. The growth in Jenks has been consistent over the last decade, prompting city leaders to consider additions and improvements to accommodate and retain new residents.
The City of Jenks, working with the Jenks Chamber of Commerce, created a new vision for downtown investment focusing on growth in the creative economy. The single largest investment so far has been the creation of The Hive, a 6,000 square foot creative space in the heart of downtown Jenks’ Arts & Antiques District.
The Hive is housed in a recently renovated building, previously used as storage for the Oklahoma Aquarium, a well-established tourism driver in the town. In 2014 the aquarium was expanded to make room for the surplus supplies and animals that were being stored off-campus, making way for a new development in downtown. A plan was quickly developed to rehab the space into a community art center.
Opened in October 2015, The Hive features 3,000 square feet of gallery space and 1,000 square feet of space for working artists. Two artists have already made The Hive their studio-home, Chris Hopkins and Christopher Westfall. The building also contains office space, which houses the Jenks Chamber of Commerce offices, as well as the Chamber’s Community Foundation, which manages The Hive. When not in use as a gallery, the center is made available for art and community events, such as the recent Crafted in Oklahoma event, which featured Made in Oklahoma products and art.
“The impetus for creating this space was a desire to move Jenks forward as the premier community in which to live and start a business,” said Nick DeMoss of the Jenks Chamber of Commerce. “Jenks has an absolutely charming downtown area, and we want to continue the success we’ve seen over the last 30 years in attracting quality retailers and restaurants to our city’s core. Jenks residents and visitors enjoy a fabulous quality of life, and providing arts and culture programming plays a major role in that. We know that business choose to locate where their employees can thrive, and our work to expand access to the arts in Jenks is a tool to facilitate that.”
The creation of The Hive represents a substantial investment in arts access, and has already spurred more than $1 million in complementary investments in the downtown core. A downtown parking lot is being converted to a park, including a large lawn, a stage to host events, bike racks, and public restrooms. Additionally, $300,000 in public funding has been allocated to rehabilitate downtown alleys for pedestrian use, rather than just for cars and dumpsters. These projects were pushed forward by the energy created at The Hive. Additional private investments in the area were recently announced, including the addition of a premium outlet mall, a FlyingTee Entertainment and Golf Complex, and the new corporate headquarters of Gateway Mortgage Group.
Jenks city leaders have recognized the importance of building a community where people want to live, play, experience culture, and gather together. Their city is reaping the rewards of investment in creativity and community, seeing consistent growth in population and in business while maintaining the authentic character of the place along the way.