The Mad River Industrial Art Park


Funding Received: 2013
Blue Lake, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 27, 2013

An important aspect of ArtPlace America’s goal to “strengthen business and the economy through the arts” for us is to identify and engage artists, artisans and creative individuals and organizations in the Blue Lake community. To that end, on Nov. 5th, Dell’Arte International rolled out a grass-roots community grant initiative we have called the Blue Lake Rising Grant program.

Ten art-based grants will be awarded in the amount of $500 each to enable applicants to create a work or develop a project of their choosing. Successful proposals will show creative vision and will address or reflect some specific aspect of life in Blue Lake. Additional sponsors are being sought in the hopes that the Blue Lake Rising Grant program can be continued on an annual basis.

Projects could include public art, such as murals or banners, live events including performances, lectures or demonstrations and creative civic improvement or recreation projects like garbage receptacle make-overs, benches, or river stewardship. All projects will be required to include an arts component or show creative thinking about aspects of our everyday lives in Blue Lake.

This grant does not have an age limit—even elementary school kids are also welcome to apply with the oversight of an adult sponsor. This is very exciting for us, and the first time we have been able to offer opportunities like this to the community at large. Anyone is able to apply, but priority will be given to Blue Lake residents.

As an organization, Dell’Arte will not be part of the decision-making process to determine winning proposals. We will assemble a community panel that will make the final decisions, which will be announced on Jan 25, 2014. Applications are already coming in and we have heard positive community buzz.

Another goal this month is to begin next steps in our overall marketing strategy and discuss in earnest with a community action group the commission of larger scale visual art projects. That will help identify Blue Lake as an arts-centered community.

We were recently engaged in a conversation at the Mad River Grange with a community member who (after having taken a tour of the Blue Lake Power Plant during our October Harvest Days event) suggested an idea to make an aspect of the power plant a large mural of a dragon. The manager for the power plant was also at the meeting, and we asked if something like that could be of consideration. He said yes, which is pretty huge for all of us in terms of relationship building and willingness to collaborate that might not have been possible a few months ago.

Dell’Arte is also in the midst right now of trying to help simplify and clarify the process for artisan businesses to move their businesses into Blue Lake. We find ourselves in the center of a nexus of discussion about long-term hopes for the business park and how to streamline this process with the city of Blue Lake governing body- from concept to reality. Our question is simple, but of course the answer more complicated. The question: How do we make it simpler for artisan business to approach the city of Blue Lake about buying/renting the vacant lots in the business park.

Our involvement to this level has developed organically in the process of talks with the city, artists, and other funding organizations, who are very interested in funding projects of this nature. Dell’Arte is on the agenda for next week’s Blue Lake City Council meeting to further this discussion.

The City and Dell’Arte continue to work towards common goals, and we are learning a lot about our own limitations, our strengths and the power of asking questions, such as “why this way?” and “Can we change that?”

Recent Wins
Oct 30th, The Mad River Grange hosted a Spaghetti Feed for all of the Dell’Arte students and staff. Each student was asked to share their goals for the year with the Grange members.

Arcata Chamber Mixer Dell'Arte Entertains

Dell’Arte hosted the Arcata Chamber of Commerce mixer Nov. 7th. Over 30 local businesses enjoyed an evening of food, entertainment, and updates. The evening was catered by Nature’s serving (whose owner also teaches voice at the Dell’Arte School) in our Carlo Theatre.

Dell’Arte’s received a great letter from our Square Dance Caller Tony Mates about Harvest Days. Read excerpts of the letter bellow:

"I was so fortunate to visit you all recently, and call a square dance in your big new tent. I have been calling dances for nearly 30 years, and your dance was a peak experience for me. In a way, I just did normal night's work- getting a wide variety of people dancing together to live music. But something about that group­ of locals from Blue Lake, the Dell Arte folks and the wider community, was very special. I'm so grateful that I could be a conduit for so much joy and talent."

Dell’Arte was featured on KHSU, our local public radio program, in two half hour episodes about creative place making and the Mad River Industrial Art Park.

Know when and how to ask for help! We have had the pleasure of great community investment, partnerships and collaborations on our grant activities so far. With more people and organizations in the mix however, it is easy for everyone to assume that someone else is taking care of the details. On the one hand, this grant opportunity is open-handed and open-ended. We want to leave as much room as possible for community partners to have a voice in the shaping of activities and planning that will influence the future of our community. On the other-hand, as the grant recipient and lead organization, it is equally important that we drive efforts forward and know when to take charge and constructively direct the actions and focus of our partners so that forward momentum can continue.

We are also learning that even when our goals are aligned, the different organizations that are in partnership with us have different needs and expectations. Managing expectations around cost and use of time and facilities is sometimes tricky and even frustrating. The processes that are in place in our city government structure, for instance, have good reasons behind them, but are not always conducive to the goals of creative placemaking. We are trying to figure out when and where to work within the system and when to push for change.