(JARED ARNOLD/Chewelah Independent)
GREAT NEWS: Chewelah named state’s second Creative District, designation will boost local creative economy…
Chewelah creatives received the official designation that they’ve been working toward for most of the last year when the Washington Arts Commission was in town last week to formally present the effort’s leaders with their Creative District certification.
It was all smiles at city hall last Friday as Annette Roth, creative districts program manager for the Washington Arts Commission, spoke to the group of collaborative partners and presented the certificate to Mayor Dorothy Knauss.
Roth started her presentation by describing her visit to Chewelah last year after being invited by Diane Evans.
“During my time here last year, I saw so many amazing things that were happening here in Chewelah. From the work that the Arts Guild and PACA are doing to the Taste of Chewelah, which was a fantastic event, to the new shops that were coming in to town like the brewery, the art gallery and some of the buildings that are being renovated around town and all the enthusiasm and passion that everybody has for this community,” Roth enthusiastically explained.
Roth praised the community for the effort to gain certification and called Chewelah a “model” for small communities around the country.
“The process and planning Chewelah has gone through to get this far has been inspirational, frankly. The passion and enthusiasm and relationship building that you have done through this process is a testimony to the love that you all have for your community. You should be proud of the work that you have done. Chewelah is a model and inspiration for other small and rural communities, not only in Washington State but around the country,” she told the collaborative partners and community members that were there for the presentation.
Besides Chewelah, only larger, more well-funded cities have gained certification since the program started in January 2018. The Snohomish County city of Edmonds (pop. 39,700) was the first to receive creative district credentials last November. Shortly after Chewelah, Olympia (pop. 46,500) became the third certified creative district.
“The fact that a community of this size has been able to get through this process with very little money, and in less than a year, is extremely impressive. Other communities are looking to you as a model for how they can make these things happen in their own communities,” Roth stated. “Your certification as a creative district speaks to the passion that you have for your community. The local partnerships, which I honestly believe is the greatest strength of this community, the social capital and social fiber that you have is really strong and I believe that is probably one of the reasons why you were able to do this so quickly. The fact that you have a belief in the long-term viability and future of this community is really impressive.”
“You have successfully modeled how a rural, small community can get through a rigorous and comprehensive community planning process that is holistic, sustainable and also reflects the values of the community that you live in,” Roth concluded before presenting the framed certificate to Mayor Knauss.
Mike Bentz, Chamber of Commerce Vice-President, first told the city council about the certification earlier this month, ahead of last week’s official presentation.
“The appointment by the Washington State Arts Commission of Chewelah as a Creative District is an exciting step for the future of Chewelah. The local collaborative partners are both humble and proud of the achievement. The excitement level since the local newspaper made the announcement has been contagious. We’re looking forward to utilizing the Creative District designation as a catalyst for Chewelah becoming a beacon for artisans, entrepreneurs, tourism and continued economic growth of the Chewelah area,” Bentz explained to the council on July 3.
According to the Washington Arts Commission, a creative district designation benefits communities in a number of ways. The state certification is an endorsement of the arts and culture activities that already exist in a community and can be used to attract more artists, entrepreneurs and creative businesses. It helps a community create a focal point where people can gather and enjoy arts and cultural activities that reflect the community. The District acts as a magnet for visitors, drawing both local residents and tourists alike. The Washington Arts Commission, known as ArtsWA, has created a comprehensive program to help communities flourish with this designation, providing grant funding opportunities, technical assistance and training for communities and artist entrepreneurs, wayfinding signage and more.
In addition to the technical support from ArtsWA, the Chewelah Creative District will receive a $5,000 grant to kickstart their efforts for short- and long-term planning, branding and promotion.