Chewelah and Olympia’s statewide certification encourages economic growth through the arts
Annette Roth, Creative Districts Program Manager
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July 9, 2019 (Olympia, WA) – Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) is pleased to announce that the City of Chewelah and the City of Olympia have been certified as the state’s second and third Creative District. The City of Edmonds received the state’s first designation in December 2018.
Mike Bentz of the Chewelah Chamber of Commerce says the year-long planning and collaboration helped form the vision for Chewelah’s Creative District. The Chamber of Commerce was the lead organization, but the Collaborative Partners included business leaders, artisans, and cultural leaders. “The local Collaborative Partners are both humble and proud of this achievement,” Bentz said.
Chewelah, a town of 2,600 located 45 miles north of Spokane, has approximately 90 community arts and cultural events per year. These events range from a traditional skills retreat that teaches blacksmithing and woodcarving to the Chewelah Chataqua, an annual arts and music festival drawing approximately 25,000 visitors to the town in mid-July.
“We are looking forward to utilizing the designation as a catalyst for Chewelah to become a “beacon” for artisans, entrepreneurs, tourism, and continued economic growth,” said Bentz. “Since we heard the good news, the excitement level has become contagious.”
In Olympia, Mayor Cheryl Selby was also excited to hear of her city’s designation, the third to receive state certification. “We believe it will bring momentum and visibility, and spark the vision for our downtown,” she said.
The State’s Capital City has a long and storied arts and cultural legacy. The city continues to add new programming such as the summer Music Out Loud series to long-standing arts and cultural programs, like Olympia’s 30-year old public arts program and the regionally-renowned Arts Walk and Procession of the Species, a twice-yearly creative celebration now in its 29th year. Olympia-area residents enjoy a variety of arts and cultural facilities and events through venues such as the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, the Hands-On Children Museum, Olympia Family Theatre, and the Harlequin Theatre.
“Creative District designation will propel new action within a ready and receptive community primed by years of planning,” Selby said.
Both communities spent the better part of a year on community planning efforts to prepare for their application. Creative Districts program manager Annette Roth said she’s pleased to see both cities receive certification. “Although these communities are very different from each other, they both demonstrate how they can use a program like ours to create a vision for the future that is reflective of their community values and use their creative assets to grow their local economy,” she said.
ArtsWA’s Creative District program supports designated communities with grant funding opportunities, technical assistance, training, wayfinding signage and more. The designation for each community lasts for five years.
The Creative District program began in 2018. It is a platform for communities to grow their creative economies. A Creative District is a geographically defined area where art, cultural, social, and economic activity takes place. It includes cultural facilities, artists, creative industries and other businesses that support these activities. It helps to encourage job growth and educational and cultural opportunities.