Cross-Currents : Art + Manufacturing Strengthening Place


Funding Received: 2012
Multiple, NC
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 9, 2012

Artists, art, and design are at the center of manufacturing renewal in three North Carolina communities through this cross-sector program led by Public Art Collaborative that places artists in residence at under-capacity manufacturing plants and supports the production of artist-conceived and designed works.

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 partnering artists with manufacturers to generate core products and stimulate a community’s social and economic connection to place.

ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?

KAGAN & GREER: ArtPlace is THE key outside organization that jump-started this initiative!  Without this financial and intellectual support, the timing of the projects would have taken much longer to realize as these are relatively small towns that had not identified atypical or unconventional strategic approaches to revitalization.  With minimal municipal resources to invest in downtown’s infrastructure for prosperity with people and places, ArtPlace and its partners have been instrumental in helping local and regional leaders see their efforts from other perspectives, which complement their current cultural economic agendas.

Working in these three communities has also revealed local organizations without which it would have been more difficult to advance the work.  In Greenville NC, the Pitt County Development Commission and the Pitt County Arts Council have been invaluable in advising how the project can impact downtown.  In Sanford NC, the Chamber of Commerce can be credited with identification of critical public and private project partners who can assist the initiative throughout municipal and design approval processes.  In Siler City NC, the Director of Planning and Community Development and the Chatham Economic Development Corporation continue to be vital sources for what the town needs and whose own offices are a point of entry for data, direction, and documents.

ARTPLACE:  Are there secrets to good partnerships?

KAGAN & GREER: We would suggest that good partnerships require the ability for all to embrace a degree of self-reflection and evaluation.  Walt Kelly’s quote from Earth Day 1970,  “We have met the enemy…and he is us....” is a piercing observation of personal and communal responsibility relevant to many creative interactions.  This commitment to one’s professional agenda, and the willingness to consider alternative perspectives and approaches, is necessary for innovative and successful partnerships whether a multi-billion dollar real estate deal or relocating a sculpture.  This “look in the mirror” is a reminder that all of us - and our collective work - is better served when we listen, are intentional, exhibit patience, and ask questions throughout our interactions with collaborative partners as together we undertake, plan, and shape new projects.  Activating partners with these presumptions is essential so that novel ideas may be fully considered and stretch in ways that can positively impact existing systems and processes - whether a manufacturer’s assembly line or implementation of a city’s master plan.  More specifically, everyone wants to be valued for their unique strengths, the roles they hold, and the jobs they perform.  To that end, the success of any partnership is first to recognize these intrinsic assets and individual motivations and then to assess how to care for and protect them while developing new shared and mutual goals.  With this approach, every partner has the opportunity to contribute meaningful work toward the endeavor.

PHOTO: October 2012 Meeting with Sanford NC Mayor Cornelia Olive (seated) and (left to right) Bob Bridwell, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Sanford and Lee County; Bob Joyce, President of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce; and Hal Hegwer,  City Manager for the City of Sanford NC.