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Cross-Currents of Production :  Artists + Manufacturers Strengthening Place

ArtPlace spoke with Janet Kagan and Jean Greer, Principals of the Public Art Collaborative Art-Force Program, an innovative effort to diversify economic development in rural counties by curating and partnering artists with manufacturers to generate core products and stimulate a community’s social and economic connection to place.

ArtPlace: How will the work you’ve begun be sustained after the grant period?  Specifically, how will this work live beyond your engagement in these towns and how has this work affected both of you and your efforts?

Kagan + Greer: As you know, we are working in three rural communities where we are not residents, which impacts and informs our project on two dimensions: how to complete an educational circle about civic vibrancy and how to replicate this artist-manufacturer partnership in other towns across America.  We are encouraged by each community’s municipal leadership, private interests, and investors.  Furthermore, we have identified organizations in each town that can sustain valuable components of our work.

In Siler City NC, both the North Carolina Arts Incubator (a physical presence on the historic downtown main street) and manufacturer Floorazzo are pivotal to the economic future of this small town.  Floorazzo owner John Sich has successfully developed an exciting architectural product line by means of his experienced entrepreneurial spirit accompanied by a healthy capacity for risk.  He has invested private money to leverage this family of sculptural lighting designs by artists Hoss Haley (working under the ArtPlace grant) and artist Rick Beck (working through funding provided by the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.)  Sich is now researching how to take these designs into an exterior application.  To demonstrate this Artist-Manufacturer partnership in Civic Art, 10-12 tall sculptural lights will be installed in store front windows along two blocks of the Siler City’s main street, synchronized for a changing light show as part of May and June 2013 festival events. The NC Arts Incubator and municipal government will continue to support these artistic assets once we are gone.

In Sanford NC, artists Chandra Cox and Susan Cannon are collaborating with WST Industries; together, they have designed several related portable and elegant tables, especially appropriate for youth and elderly populations.  These products were conceived using a zero-waste strategy.  The Civic Art application of this partnership will become a permanent marker in downtown.  The metal sheets from which the tables have been cut will be painted and permanently installed along a new greenway as garden trellises in Sanford’s historic downtown, adjacent to a new multipurpose parking area used for market days, antique car displays, and festival events.  Our sustaining partners are the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and Central Carolina Community College, which plans to open an adjacent business incubator during 2014 to encourage emerging businesses and the interaction with creative individuals.

Textile artist Jan-Ru Wan working with Parrott Canvas Company in Greenville NC presented a dozen designs during her initial week in residence this past summer.  Parrott Canvas is bringing three of these products to market, and would like to continue the partnership by refining and developing at least two more designs.  We have encouraged this direction, as we know that to successfully build a new product line, Parrott Canvas will need multiples of distinctive new product directions.  Integral to the ArtPlace grant, the artist has designed and completed a large textile-based mural that will be installed for a couple of years in historic downtown Sanford, located directly across from the designated market and event square.  Our civic partners, the Pitt Council Arts Council at Emerge, Uptown Greenville, and the Pitt County Economic Development Commission have enthusiastically supported our work and remain committed to carrying forward the visual and economic impact of these cross-currents, which we have initiated.

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