A recent survey conducted by the city of Springfield asked Commercial Street business owners and residents for their opinions on changes planned for the district’s art installations.

The survey followed an annual Commercial Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) meeting conducted on June 15 which showed substantial interest among district members in improving the state of C-Street’s public art.

Olivia Hough of the city’s Economic Vitality Department said the city council had appropriated $40,000 out of the TIF fund for public art following the meeting. Public art is one of several projects being addressed, others including improvements to both parking and gateways into the district.

Hough said the goal of the recent survey is to gauge what the public wants to see and what gaps — including placement and distribution of art installations — need to be filled.

“One idea is to do a site-specific commissioned piece that would be specific to Commercial Street and meaningful,” Hough said. “We’re hearing folks say they would like to see a meaningful piece that may be even representational or interpretive that could help tell the story of Commercial Street that’s a little bit different from what we have now.”

According to Christine Schilling, chair of the Public Art Committee for the Commercial Club of Springfield, efforts to improve the state of public art on C-Street have been reliant on volunteer work and fundraising among her and her peers for years.

“From the beginning, this was a place where people came together and celebrated the beauty of the street and the opportunities that we could do here,” Schilling said. “I’m an artist and many of us were artists, and we wanted to bring art out of our studios and into the street.”

Schilling, who has been a prominent artistic figure on C-Street for over 30 years, said there has been an ongoing effort to get the city government more interested in public art for a long time. She said the importance of government involvement became clear to her over 20 years ago, following a public art conference she attended in Seattle, a city which she described as a “pathfinder in terms of integrating public art into community life.”

“I am loving that we’re getting some support and some recognition for what we’ve done but it is time for the city to really run with it,” Schilling said. “If we want to be a top-notch city, if we want to live up to the name that we claim, we need to act. It’s one thing to say that we’re doing it but it’s another thing to do it.”

Irene Schaefer, co-owner of Footbridge Trading Company, said it’s important to recognize the artistic contributions of private individuals to the street. Schaefer highlighted the mural on her store as well as the work of artist Randy Bacon, who has a studio on C-Street.

As a business and property owner, Schaefer said the expansion of art on the street means bringing in people who, in turn, bring successful business.

“The arts will fill a part that I feel like we’ve been missing, (that) we need more of to make us that destination for people who love art of different forms,” Schaefer said. “We’ve got a lot of wonderful restaurants, we’ve got wonderful things going on, but the arts really need more of that gap filled in so that we can be that destination.”

 

Follow Andrew Michael on Twitter, @OverAnder

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