A coalition of local leaders and creative advocates has decided to make arts a priority for Alachua County.
The 352 Arts Roadmap, a project headed up by the City of Gainesville’s Cultural Affairs Department, is seeking to establish a set of objectives to make the area more culturally rich and artist-friendly.
“We have such a robust arts community here in Gainesville/Alachua County, but really in a decade there hasn’t been an initiative to pull the community together and see where we’d like to go in the future,” said Cultural Affairs Interim Manager Russell Etling. “This 352 Arts Roadmap, we hope, will create that plan.”
For now, the project is in the research phase. Organizers are conducting surveys and leading focus groups to figure out what the community wants and needs.
“The hallmark of the plan is that it’s being built from stakeholder input up,” Etling said.
Three online surveys, available on the project’s website www.352arts.org, target artists, businesspeople and general residents.
Graduate students in UF’s Urban Planning Division have gotten involved, too. About 18 students are helping collect research and doing cultural asset mapping —“identifying all the arts resources, institutions and individuals throughout the region,” Etling said.
The students are also examining other community-art partnership models across the country and looking at ordinances relevant to arts and culture.
Once a list of priorities has been drawn up from themes that surfaced in the research, project organizers will go back to the focus groups in January. The focus groups will sort through the long list of potential priorities, “and they’ll prioritize the priorities,” Etling said.
He said the project aims to answer four major questions:
What’s out there?
What we want and need to be a richer, more vibrant community culturally?
What infrastructure is needed, and how can it be sustained over time?
How do the goals of the arts and culture sector dovetail with the community at large?
Marilyn Tubb, chairwoman of the 352 Arts Roadmap steering committee, said this project matters because planning will help cultural aspects flourish in Gainesville, just like the local technology industry has grown in recent years.
“All the blossoming that’s going on right now didn’t happen by accident,” she said.
She said the project will ultimately help Gainesville reach its full potential.
“Until we have a roadmap, it’s continue as we are,” she said, “which is not bad, but we are not what we could be.”