Oct
28

Artistry + The River = An Economic Catalyst

What do artists have in common with supporting economic development along our most important and prominent rivers in the United States?

Believe it or not, more than you might think.

Today John Cimino, Creative Leaps Intl, myself and members of the American Heritage River Alliance have a meeting in Mayor Daley’s Office to discuss Chicago’s expressed interest in applying for federal funding for the Chicago River in 2009 through the American Heritage River Alliance.

The AHRA, established by President Clinton’s Executive Order #13061 in 1997, is a network of locally-driven partnerships working to restore rivers, promote sustainable development, and improve quality of life. When President Clinton issued this Executive Order, federal funding was given for ten years to fourteen different rivers. Chicago applied ten years ago and was not selected. In 2009 federal funding will become available to six more rivers, for ten years, through an application process.

The first 14 rivers that were originally funded are now being converted into 501c3’s. Each river, through this White House initiative, was originally assigned an Interagency River Navigator– a key person who helps match local needs with their ability to fast track available federal resources for environmental, economic, and cultural/historic preservation efforts.

With the original river navigators still in their original roles, and in need of a new source of funding, the reason the AHRA and several of the key river navigators are in town this week is to promote the marketing potential of supporting this organization at the Chief Responsibility Officer Conference– the newest emerging corporate executive role created in the last few years- this coming Wednesday here in Chicago. Both John and I will be attending the conference to help the AHRA network to advance fundraising initiatives. Did you know that the original 14 rivers, the AHRA is looking for these corporations to financial support, has a marketing reach of over 1/2 of the population in the United States?

So why, you might be thinking, are John Cimino and I involved in this project?

Well, Creative Leaps is currently working on a project in the Hudson River, one of the originally funded 14 rivers through the AHRA, for their Quadricentennial celebration. John is serving as the educational director for a project that the AHRA and Creative Leaps conceived called the Arts-Science Challenge. From this project, which will last through 2009, the AHRA is committing a portion of the 400 million dollar funding it hopes to raise, to development John Cimino’s idea for The Renaissance Center, which the AHRA believes on its own provides an economic engine for the region it is built in.

The Renaissance Center is a center devoted to for Leadership, Innovation and Learning. It will serve as an interdisciplinary center using the arts as a catalyst, to convene business, government, education and sustainable technology sectors together to solve their problems and develop teaching artist consultants to do some of this work in each area it serves.

My interest in the project is to help John place one of these centers in Chicago and to be responsible for its development and involved as a teaching artist in its work- thus a new viable twist on my idea of a Chicago Arts Incubator.

So what do a couple of artists have in common with ecomonic development along the Hudson River and The Chicago River? It appears a lot!

What kind of interesting lense can you bring into binocular view- something paired to your artistry- to make your work more fully integrated into the community in a significant and financially meaningful way?
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