Window sun-catcher by Gerald Mazur, Van Wert. (Photos submitted)
Window sun-catcher by Gerald Mazur, Van Wert. (Photos submitted)

Creative place-making. What in the heck does that mean, really? Basically creative place-making means exactly what it says. Turning a community into a creative space can be done in ways limited only by the human imagination. Creative place-making is a broad term used by arts organizations and grant-makers to define how an area uses the cultural arts to drive people to an area, how usable that area is and how that area contributes to the local economy.

Examples of creative place-making can be events such as arts festivals to parks, creation of active community art centers and artist relocation programs. One example of a wildly successful event is ArtPrize, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize, in its fourth year is the largest open art contest in the world and the winners are chosen by public opinion. The venue makes up almost the entire downtown so, artwork is exhibited publicly by companies willing to be hosts. The first year week-long ArtPrize was held the numbers of visitors were quite surprising. Hotels ran out of rooms, then restaurants ran out of food and the venue hosting the wining piece hosted over 80,000 visitors. Event visitor totals were over 200,000.

Another example is Whirleygig Park in Wilson, North Carolina. Vollis Simpson, a retired engineer and mechanical repairman decided not to sit in front of his television upon retirement but instead created moving sculptures some reaching heights of over 50 feet and then installed them in his field. As the number of sculptures increased so did the stream of onlookers driving past his rural farm. In November of this year, Whirlygig Park will be opening in the center of town creating a cultural hub in the community of Wilson which had already benefitted from the traffic (sometimes from around the world) drawn to Hollis' creations.

Artist relocation programs have been successful across the country with the national model not being located in some trendy west-coast area, but in Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah, roughly twice the size of Van Wert has raised the average cost of homes in a 25-block area in their community from $80,000 to $250,000 by enlisting the help of visual and performing artists. Artists interested in applying were given incentives to purchase run-down properties to rehab. To date ten years since the program's inception, 70 artists have renovated 80 derelict properties and in the process created a successful arts-driven community.

It's interesting to think about how when people get together and share ideas what can come about. Most people do not traditionally think of the arts as a revenue generator. A national group called Americans for the Arts, completed a study which indicated that arts groups generate $135 billion annually at the national level. This breaks down 61 billion in spending by organizations and 74 billion in subsequent spending by audiences. This accounts for 2.2 million arts-related full-time positions in the workforce.

As for the creative place-making going on around the Wassenberg Art Center we are getting really excited for our upcoming Window sun-catcher class taught by Jerry Mazur.

He's been dropping off samples and we've been hanging them up in the windows to brighten our winter windows! Learn to create a stained glass piece of your own starting Feb. 6 through Feb. 27. We take care of all of the supplies so you don't have to.

Our Show & Tell exhibit will open on Saturday, Feb. 9 and run through March 3. This exhibit features Wassenberg Art Center class participants! Any person who has taken a class with us in the last 2 years is welcome to submit pieces of their work they would like to share. In conjunction with the Wassenberg Art Center art Collection we are taking a look back and forward and it will be interesting to see the evolution of the constant stream of artwork flowing out of this art center. Please give us a call for all the particulars at the number below if you have something you would like to share. This exhibit will open on Saturday, Feb. 9 and run through March 3.

Time is running out to sign up to learn how to weave your own heart-shaped basket. In just a couple hours and just in time for Valentine's Day, Van Wert's Jayne Smith will help you create your own heart shaped basket. Aside from learning a new skill it's a great night out with fun people. If you like bring a bottle of wine to share! Jayne has won statewide awards in Texas for her basketry and she wants to share her talent with you.

We have a fresh supply of new clay including some new kinds and glazes. Ralph Stuckman of Celina will be here to share his latest and greatest techniques of combining clay tiles you make yourself into wooden frames. Check our website for more details on this class or to see our full class, program and workshop line up.

On Feb. 5, in conjunction with the Niswonger Performing Arts Center we are hosting a special luncheon presentation by the Center for Regional Development and Bowling Green State University. Katerina Ruedi Ray, Director of Art at BGSU and Michael Carroll, Director of CRD will share surprising facts regarding how the arts impact the Northwest Ohio economically. A complimentary lunch will be served by Collins Fine Foods. You are invited to attend and the presentation is free of charge, however please RSVP to us here at the art center.

Also performing at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, we're excited to hear about the presentation "Remembering Rockwell," by Ceci Wiselogel scheduled for March 14 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Visit the Niswonger Performing Arts Center website for ticket information. Tickets are only $5 and this is a great way to learn more about America's favorite illustrators, Norman Rockwell and is the next best thing to a Rockwell museum visit.

If you have any questions regarding the classes or programs and would like to sign up please call the Wassenberg Art Center at (419) 238-6837, email: info@wassenbergartcenter.org or register online at: wassenbergartcenter.org. Hours during exhibits are: Tuesday through Sunday 1-5 p.m. The Wassenberg Art Center is located at 643 South Washington Street in Van Wert.