Main Street Gets Creative, Artists Invade Downtown Businesses

Local Artists get $1000 mini-grants to partner with Local Businesses in Downtown Mesa

Mesa, AZ: This fall, five local artists will partner with Downtown Mesa businesses to engage the community and bring vibrancy and life to Main Street. In a program called Ripple, the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) will fund artists with mini-grants to do placemaking projects in an effort to support community and economic development.

Ripple is inspired by Irrigate in St. Paul, where a local non-profit discovered the value of creative placemaking during their light rail expansion. Downtown Mesa has experienced some of the same challenges as St. Paul and responded in a similar way – finding ways to celebrate the extension of the light rail line and inviting the community to do the same by participating in ongoing events and taking part in a “Shop on Main St.” initiative to support local businesses. Ripple takes these efforts a step further by giving local artists the opportunity to build relationships with the independently owned businesses along Main Street and to use their art as a tool for community development.

All artists were required to attend a day-long workshop on creative placemaking that took place in August and was taught by Springboard for the Arts’ Artist Community Organizer, Jun-Li Wang. Jun-Li focused the workshop on examples of creative placemaking and necessary collaboration and leadership skills. Artists were then required to develop a proposal and submit it for review. Projects were chosen based on three criteria: 1) Quality of Partnership – Is the project mutually-beneficial to both the artist and business? 2) Impact – Will the project have a meaningful, visible, potentially ongoing impact on the community? 3) Viability – Does the project fit with Downtown Mesa and do the partners have the capacity to see the proposal through to successful completion? Five projects were chosen ranging from activities encouraging participation using social media to live mural painting, interactive window displays, and community art workshops.

Terry Benelli, Executive Director of NEDCO, shared her enthusiasm about Ripple, stating “We are so excited about the partnerships that have already been created between these artists and the local businesses and cannot wait to see what these projects further inspire. Ripple provides an opportunity to not only share local artistic talents but to also expose more people to the unique independent business in our downtown. We are witnessing the unique marriage of arts and economics – let’s support our local economy by supporting our local artists!

Ripple projects are set to take place at several Downtown businesses including Lo-fi Coffee, Queen’s Pizzeria, Lulubell Toy Bodega, Margarita’s Grille, Linton-Milano’s Music, and more to be announced. Projects will begin within the upcoming weeks and wrap up during the winter holidays.