My mention of the Haymaker Farmer’s Market interest in an art mural on the columns beneath the Haymaker Bridge earlier in the week sparked a fair amount of interest from folks. People seemed to feel that the Market was on to something good and they were letting me know that we (aka the City) needs to do more to promote public art projects like this since art runs deep in Kent’s DNA — both formally with the art education programs and professional galleries like the KSU Gallery and the McKay Bricker Gallery, and at the other end of the spectrum with a glom of indie artists randomly found around town doing their own thing in unexpected places (like streetcorners or at the Professor’s Pub).
I tend to agree that the City needs to do whatever it can to advance the arts — both the formal and informal forms of creative expression. I don’t make that statement to be politically correct or for some philanthropic agenda, rather if we’re serious about selling the Kent experience as an eclectic mix of characters, places and sensory stimuli then art has to be part of the community conversation and stake it’s claim at the alter of eccentric Kent. The adjectives and descriptors of art — quirky, surprising, confusing, thought provoking, and even shocking — also happen to pop up when talking about many aspects of Kent so in that regard art resonates and even amplifies the Kent ethos (or milieu for the high brow artists among us.)
Our efforts to market the Kent lifestyle is not unique to us — it’s the core of a lot of city development efforts. Those bold Texans in Austin have taken it so far as to proudly adopt the tag line “Keep Austin Wierd” in a national campaign to be the world headquarters of everything odd. You can’t help but admire the lengths they’ve gone to realize their aspiration — the video of the 6’4″ cowboy walking down the street in his raw hide boots and matching thong did me in but clearly they have no fear in embracing their unique sense of style.
Another ambitious city that has embraced the off-beat is Asheville North Carolina. They’ve carved themselves a unique place in the mountains of North Carolina that is equal parts hippie and hill-billy — and it works really well. Great art, great street scene, great restaurants and a surprising mix of people of all kinds of dispositions.
It turns out that Asheville is one of the sources of inspiration for the Kent art mural project that has been adopted by the Haymaker Farmer’s Market. They’ve got their own infrastructure art thing going on.
Here’s a few good links to learn more about the Asheville project
Kent still has a long way to go to catch Asheville but it’s nice to know that we’re in good company.