The Mad River Industrial Art Park


Funding Received: 2013
Blue Lake, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
January 31, 2014

On January 16, we presented SPEED NETWORKING, a co-created project with the City of Blue Lake, Humboldt Made (a member organization for Humboldt artisan businesses and of which Dell’Arte, Wallace and Hinz, and the Mad River Brewery are members), the Blue Lake Industrial Art Park, and Dell’Arte. We received a matching grant from the Headwaters Foundation to create a ‘meet and greet’ between developers, small artisan business owners and the City of Blue Lake, which has seven open plots of land in the business park.

Attendance was good, and a big win was attendance by Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace and several Blue Lake City representatives, who made an official presentation about their support for artisan proposals for business park development, which we think is a great first step.

Kash Boodjeh, a local architect, was commissioned to create and present a “vision” for an Art and Industry Village in Blue Lake, which included a creative envisioning of one of many possible futures for the Mad River Industrial Art Park. His drawing proposes the development of “Art Gates” at key intersections in the community and small artist incubator buildings in the park that are connected by green spaces, reaching from the Mad River throughout Blue Lake. These Greenways would host unified public art works, interweaving bike trails, walking areas, and development on the unused lots in the Business Park. He did quite a bit of research to come up with the proposed vision, talking to the Planning Commission, local ecological organizations, landowners and anyone that might be affected by the design. He was positive about these conversations.


The Art and Industry Village is not designed to be implemented fully, but we intend for Kash’s design and for the convening on January 16th to act as a catalyst for conversation about the long-term goals for Blue Lake. It served as a concrete possibility for the diverse interests who attended our networking event to talk about and express their views on what they liked, did not like, and why. The design and Kash’s description of its intentions sparked lively conversation and inspiration at the meeting. During a breakout session afterwards, many huddled around the design to see it up close and wrote their answers on butcher paper to these five questions: Who needs to be in the conversation that is not yet? What ideas motivate you? Other Big Ideas? Needs of Your Business? Questions?

BL - 1_8_14 proposed#033A

In other news, we announced the local winners of the Blue Lake Rising Mini-grants on January 25th. Grants were submitted by Blue Lakers of all ages and on Sunday, Jan 19th, four community panelists representing different aspects of community interest, from local artists to a member of the Blue Lake Chamber of Commerce, met to decide the winners. Dell’Arte made it a point to be only the facilitators of the awarding panel, but did not have a vote in the process. This was a way to put the decisions about the grant awards (and ultimately the award money) into the hands of the community. It’s inspiring to see the proposals that came in and we hope that after this inaugural year the program will gain in popularity as residents see the impact of the creative vision of the grantees. We want to commend the creative effort and energy put forth by all the applicants this year, who took the time to think about their community and how to improve it through arts and civic projects. Some who applied were artists, but dedicated members of the community put many of the applications forth. Our goal is to get support for these grants from other community organizations to sustain the opportunity on an annual basis into the future.

Next up, the first annual “Steelhead Days” kick-off event will bring fishy fun to Blue Lake on Jan. 25th only three blocks from the Mad River at the Blue Lake Business Park. Steelhead Days is being produced by one of our active ArtPark partners, Mad River Alliance. As part of our partnership with them we are helping with publicity and producing a great opening day that will include workshops in casting and catching steelhead, games, crafts, and artisan tables. In the evening, at 7 p.m., Dell’Arte will host a fish themed variety show, with live music, acts, comedy and storytelling (and perhaps a rain dance or two, now that California is officially in a drought).

Recent Wins
Radio Interview on Artwaves with Wendy Butler

County of Humboldt officially proclaims Jan 25th- Feb 8th Mad River Steelhead Days

It has been a real joy to see our partnerships develop beyond our expectations with several community organizations. There are several ways that we “planned” how our partnerships would work as part of our ArtPlace proposal, but in many ways the real power has been in the less overt but extremely meaningful interactions on a daily basis with these partners. It is in the “hellos” and chit chat at the coffee shop. It is in the support for new initiatives or requests going to city council. It is in the sharing of resources and ideas that were unforeseen just a few months ago. It is the sharing of a radio interview talking about what the science of river ecologies, the biology of fish populations and art all have to do with each other. We have been thinking lately about how to document—or meaningfully capture—this outcome; we have the sense that it may be one of the more impactful and enduring ones for our community.

One of the challenges we have been experiencing has to do with how the community sees and/or perceives our role in the creative placemaking process. As the recipient of an ArtPlace grant and money in a rural region that receives little outside funds, especially for the arts, we are noticing a tendency to see Dell’Arte as the primary and only driver for all of the placemaking goals in Blue Lake. We have tried to be transparent at every meeting with the terms of the grant, the activities included, and the associated budget for the grant dollars. We have started using terms like “catalyst,” “connector,” and “coordinator” to invoke the image that the work we are talking about for our community goes way beyond this grant award and timeframe, and that it necessarily requires the insight, passion and dedication of all of our community members and organizations.