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The city holds second meeting of task force helping the city improve arts and culture in town

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Dia de Los Muertos celebration is one event at Wilsonville High School that embraces diversity.

During the second meeting of the city of Wilsonville's Arts, Culture and Heritage Strategy Task Force, local teachers and students explained that youth in the community generally appreciate art programming offered at Wilsonville High School but don't feel that sense of vibrancy once they venture outside school grounds.

"There is a lot of diversity continuing to form at the high school and I would like to see that spill out more to the general town," said Eleanor Gale Karrick, a Wilsonville High School student.

Members of the task force discussed the preferences of a youth advisory committee appointed to assist with the project, ways to promote diversity and provided tentative survey results during the meeting Tuesday, July 21.

Some things youth committee members wanted, according to Wilsonville High teacher Angennette Escobar and former Wilsonville High teacher Christopher Shotola-Hardt, were more youth-oriented artistic events in town, particularly during the summer, as well as more murals, events that are free of charge and culinary eclecticism. They also wanted more diverse cultural offerings in general.

"They talked about food as a way to tie communities together. That food piece really brings people to events and shows off our rich, diverse community that you don't really see when you walk around," Escobar said. "But when you start to talk to people (you realize) 'Wow you have such a diverse community.' We need to see it more."

And the task force picked up on that last idea, saying food from different cultures could complement an artistic showcase. Local artist Toni Avery also mentioned that finding ways to better engage local artists would be beneficial. She also said an event that combines multiple kinds of art, such as poetry and paintings, would be attractive.

"It's (a poem) a great way to lead people into the artwork and see things differently," she said.

The task force also discussed the lack of a distinctive downtown in Wilsonville that could serve as a hub for art. Wilsonville resident Dick Spence felt that Town Center could serve as that venue once it's redeveloped. This process, though, could take decades.

"(A primary challenge is) this lack of a focal point, a central point even in the community. Especially for arts and culture, 'Where do we go. Where is it?" said Bill Flood, a consultant the city hired to assist with this project.

Flood said local parks and the Wilsonville Public Library were the most common responses when asked about cultural assets in town in a survey the city is conducting.

He also noted that some respondents said there is no culture in Wilsonville and a few said that minority communities are viewed poorly. Flood said the city would keep the survey open until the first week of August.

Flood and the city also conducted a survey of other jurisdictions about how they facilitate arts and culture. Responses varied significantly, with some cities spending nothing and others spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or as much as $1.5 million per year.

Flood also mentioned that Vancouver was gearing up to pass a tax on movie theater admissions to fund arts and culture programming, but tabled the initiative after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. And all 11 cities that responded had some kind of citizens advisory committee, with five of them being appointed by the council or city manager. The city is hoping to form a committee to organize arts and culture groups in town through this project.

The next task force meeting will take place Aug. 25. The city is also holding a meeting 7-8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, for Latinx community members to discuss how they would like to see the city's arts and culture scene change, and some of the barriers to involvement.

For more information on the project, visit bit.ly/32Qdiaj.


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