What if, by creating a city with beautiful public spaces that featured art and entertainment, we could generate increased economic growth, a sense of pride and strengthen community bonding among residents of Grand Bahama? Well, we can.
In 2010, Gallup and the John and James L. Knight Foundation concluded a 3 year study titled “Soul of the Community” which they said sought to answer the questions: “What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it?” and “Are communities with more attached residents better off?” (soulofthecommunity.org) The findings of the Soul of the Community project confirmed that communities where residents felt a high level of attachment had higher local GDP growth.
Just what creates this attachment for residents? “After interviewing close to 43,000 people in 26 communities over three years, the study has found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces).” Interestingly, the respondents said these factors were more important to them than safety, education and municipal services. That is not to downplay the importance of those factors, but it certainly highlights the crucial impact that art and entertainment have on building a sense of community.
Everything about Junkanoo already establishes that we as a people ‘get’ the value of art and can feel passionate about it on a visceral level. It is beautiful, creatively explosive, tackles topical issues, sometimes makes social statements, is collaborative, has the power to unite people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds, is dynamic and unique, is a source and vehicle of national identity and pride. Art is in our veins. Let’s celebrate it throughout the year.
In 2010 Philadelphia’s Association for Public Art (aPA) launched its “Museum Without Walls”™ initiative. This innovative idea kicked the ‘art in public places’ idea up a notch by creating a new experience for residents and visitors to the city. Philly created a free audio guide that anyone could download onto personal devices and get an in-depth, on-demand tour of the city’s public art and historical legacy. The aPA says, through their initiative,“…Philadelphians and visitors are invited to experience civic spaces enlivened by artists and art; to discover the city’s vast collection of public art; and to connect to a shared cultural legacy.”
Grand Bahama is already primed for a move toward openly declaring our respect and regard for art as expression. The GBPA and City of Freeport Council made a welcome decision years ago when it chose to provide not just functional bus shelters, but beautifully crafted shelters that went a long way towards adding charisma and personality to our city’s streets. Officials could have just as easily gone with importing glass and steel shelters that can be found in almost any city around the globe. Thank goodness they did not. The GBPA’s commitment to civic beauty extends to the lush landscaping throughout our city. Again, city services not only provides the expected function of keeping the streets clean, but we get to enjoy a pleasant view while running errands and tending to business each day. It is not a mystery why Port Lucaya Marketplace has become our de facto town square. It was, after all, deliberately designed with all the right factors in place for entertainment and fellowship, and recently made the move towards further improvement by positioning itself as a site of public art with the installation of the collaborative tile project unveiled last December.
There are many good candidates for public art sites in Freeport: Taino Beach, Freeport Harbour, Port Lucaya, GB International Airport, roundabouts, or an area near the iconic ‘Pink Building’. What are your suggestions for other possible locations on Grand Bahama?
Let’s not be afraid to take Grand Bahama a step further as our home and as a destination. New Providence has many examples of public installations – some more beloved than others – but all add a sense of character, culture and unique beauty to the island. Isn’t it time we move ahead and do the same for our island? It makes sense for the soul of our community and it makes financial sense for the future of our community. Just ask anyone at the Knight Foundation – they’ll tell you.
Read more about it:
Why We Love – And Need – Public Art (Forbes, 5/5/09) http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/05/state-of-the-city-opinions-george-rickey-public-art.html
'The Economic Secret of Vacant City Spaces' (Forbes.com 8/16/12) http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2012/08/16/the-economic-secret-of-vacant-city-spaces/