Art of Community Building: Alva

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Community Profile
City Budget (2015-16): $9,422,223

2014 Census Data
Population: 5,180
Median household income: $50,151
Persons in poverty (% of total residents):19.6%
High School graduate or higher (age 25+): 88.0%
Bachelor’s degree or higher (age 25+): 27.6%

From Local Arts Index
State Arts Agency Grants per county capita (2003-2009): $20.08
Total nonprofit arts organizations per 100,000 county population (2012): 22.61

Links: 
Alva’s Cultural District Development Planhttp://www.arts.ok.gov/pdf/Cultural_District_Initiative/Alva_Cultural_District_Plan.pdf
Graceful Arts Gallery and Studioswww.gracefulartscenter.org
Freedom West Community Development Corporationhttp://www.freedomwest.org

The city of Alva invests in the arts through a combination of city/state partnerships and public/private partnerships. These partnerships function toward the goals of the Cultural District Initiative, (1) to increase Alva’s capacity for arts and cultural development, and (2) to cultivate inclusive improvement in social and economic life for residents of Alva.

The Cultural District, which has served as a rallying point for artistic, cultural, and economic development, was underwritten by a “Cultural District Initiative” grant from the state arts agency the Oklahoma Arts Council. It has been implemented through the time and resources of Graceful Arts Gallery and Studios staff, with civic organizations and private donors also making contributions in time and dollars.

Referred to variably as Alva’s Cultural District, Arts District, and Downtown Arts and Shopping District, it is clear that social vitality and economic strength are important goals of the project.

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One of the events drawing people to Alva’s Arts and Culture District in the Art Walk

Part of the way the city has structured its budget to work toward these goals is a hotel tax. Arts and culture organizations can apply for these funds, which are disbursed on the bases of merit and the fund’s size in a given year.

Public investment in the arts has in turn been buoyed by the investment of financial and human resources by the Cultural District Initiative grant recipient and lead organization, Graceful Arts Gallery and Studios.

Through the work of Dr. Kay Decker, who ties Graceful Arts Gallery and Studios together with Freedom West Community Development Corporation and Northwest Oklahoma Sate University, unified progress has been possible through the stages of applying for the Oklahoma Arts Council grant, developing Alva’s Cultural District Comprehensive  Plan, acquiring and refurbishing spaces in which the plan could be implemented, and implementing programming to meet the Cultural District’s goals.

A few of the programs, etc. that have emerged out of these state/city and public/private collaborations include: an arts and culture brochure for the city of Alva, which came from the Cultural District grant, wayfinding signage throughout the Cultural District, which came from a 50/50 public/private partnership; Summer programming for community youth, which is a collaboration between Graceful Arts and Alva Public Library; and purchasing public art to be displayed in the Cultural District, which also came from a 50/50 public/private partnership.

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An Art Camp group in Alva

Finally, on the economic front, the public investment in the arts in Alva has been greeted with $15 million in “private reinvestment in the Alva Arts District,” says Dr. Decker.

The push for people whom Dr. Decker calls “entrepreneurs” is a useful articulation of the unity of interest the various constituencies have in Alva’s downtown renewal and cultural persistence. They are building a community rich in creative work that is rewarding for workers in the creative sector.