The revival of historic downtown districts in cities across America is increasingly tied to their ability to shift from being retail centers to being cultural centers. For that reason, public art is playing an increasingly important - and visible - role in revitalization efforts.
Recognizing that, Clarksburg Uptown, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the revitalization of the historic uptown district of Clarksburg, is partnering with Alderson-Broaddus College to explore a variety of potential public art projects in that area.
The project, which connects Alderson-Broaddus Visual Art students with Clarksburg Uptown members, is a part of the Campus-Community LINK program, a community service learning program initiated by WV Campus Compact with assistance from the WV Community Development Hub.
The program provides up to $5,000 to cover expenses incurred by a college or university as students and faculty provide technical assistance to a community development project. Campus-Community LINK is funded through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
This fall, the students will concentrate on refining proposals for presentation to the Clarksburg community. The community's feedback will be used to make adjustments in preparation for spring, when the projects will begin to be implemented.
"We're very excited about the potential these students bring," said Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe, a member of the Clarksburg Uptown board of directors. "We're beginning to see progress in the uptown area of Clarksburg and we believe this project will help us gain momentum."
Currently in its earliest phase, this public art project intends to draw upon and celebrate the history of Clarksburg as represented in its architecture, as well as is in its people's stories, legacies, and talents. There will be an emphasis on projects that involve community members directly in the process of creation, and on projects that can support ongoing presentation of new public artwork in Clarksburg for years to come.
Grant Johnson, assistant professor of visual art at Alderson-Broaddus, who is overseeing the project, said, "I expect our students - and the Clarksburg community - to learn across a wide spectrum as they work to understand one another and develop compelling projects. This is about much more than pretty murals or statues. It is about reinvigorating a town."
Johnson, along with a group of visual art students and Clarksburg Uptown students, recently toured the district discussing possibilities and photographing the area and its architecture.
For more information, or to inquire about participating, contact Grant Johnson, assistant professor of visual art at Alderson-Broaddus College at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 304-457-6273.