2017-07-12 / Front Page

Imlay City in running to become art destination

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com

IMLAY CITY — Imlay City may soon be recognized as one of the premiere destinations for Michigan art lovers.

For the second time in four years, Imlay City will compete in the Michigan Municipal League’s (MML) most significant community award, the Community Excellence Award (CEA). The League developed the CEA so it could honor and celebrate the innovative place-making programs and projects in communities all across the state.

This year, Imlay City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Director Dana Walker submitted the 2016 DDA initiative ‘Downtown Art in Action’ to the contest. The project began in June of last year and featured two artists — Randy Hughes and Hunter Pope — who set up an artists’ studio in downtown and within a one month time frame, created 14 large pieces of public art. The DDA now owns the artwork created and has displayed the pieces throughout downtown.

“Downtown Art in Action fits the MML’s place-making guidelines for it is helping to develop our place-based assets in order to attract and retain, talent, residents and businesses,” Walker said.

Communities across the state were invited to enter a project or initiative that encouraged one or more of the following economic development tools: Civic Engagement; Innovative Delivery of Services; Intergovernmental Cooperation; Place-making; and Redevelopment.

“Our artists, Randy Hughes and Hunter Pope, did an incredible job in a short amount of time,” Walker said. “The public’s response has been amazing and it gives visitors to downtown another reason to stroll our sidewalks and patronize our merchants.”

The competition to be awarded the DEA includes an online voting component open to the general public, which runs through July 30. The online voting, combined with judges’ rankings, will decide the top four projects, which will go on to compete at the League’s 2017 Convention in Holland, Sept. 13-15. The statewide winner will be decided by Convention attendees and announced Sept. 15.

“Of course we want to become a finalist and ultimately the CEA winner,” Walker said. “But truthfully the art initiative has already been awarding and the DDA can’t wait to see what comes from this year’s project,” she said. The initiative was so successful that the DDA will host several artists once again this August with the goal of creating several more pieces of original artwork to be displayed within the downtown.

The 19 communities that entered this year’s CEA will be featured on the CEA website, www.cea.org, from June 30- July 30 with individuals having the ability to vote for their favorite community project. Online voting will constitute 25 percent of a project’s final score. One vote will be allowed per day. A panel of experts’ ranking the project on replicability, creativity and community impact will constitute the other 75 percent of a project’s final score.

Four community finalists will present at the League’s annual convention to be held this September in Holland with one ‘Race for the Cup’ winner announced. “The online voting has been extremely successful and the participating communities and their projects get thousands of votes each year,” said MML Director of Communications Matt Bach. “The online voting, combined with rankings by a group of judges, will decide the top four projects.” The communities involved in this year’s competition are Big Rapids, Birmingham, Cadillac, Camden, Flint, Grand Blanc, Hudsonville, Imlay City, Jackson, Mason, Milan, Norton Shores, Novi, Oak Park (two entries), Roscommon, Walker, the City of Wayne, Wyoming and Ypsilanti.

“We are impressed with the number of place-making projects and initiatives happening in Michigan’s communities. This program aims to recognize those efforts,” said Dan Gilmartin, the League’s executive director and CEO. “In addition, for the third year now, we’re opening this competition up to the public by offering online voting. Now everyone can take part in helping promote the innovative things happening in their communities.”

“The Community Excellence Award is the most prestigious community award bestowed by the Michigan Municipal League,” said Bach. “This is the 11th year for the CEA program and winning communities and projects have come in all shapes and sizes.”

According to the MML’s mission statement, the organization is, “…dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The Michigan Municipal League is the one clear voice for Michigan communities. Through advocacy at the state and federal level, we proactively represent municipalities in order to help them sustain highly livable, desirable, and unique places within the state.” Imlay City is a member of the MML.

“The Michigan Municipal League represents more than 520 Michigan cities, villages and urban townships. A majority of our member communities are small towns like Imlay City with populations under 4,000 people,” said Bach. “These communities are extremely important to the economic success of their surrounding region and the state as a whole. The League provides communities of all sizes with the resources they need to be successful – including lobbying on their behalf in Lansing; statewide and local opportunities to network and learn, and customized trainings we can bring right to their doorstep. Without vibrant communities, we cannot have a vibrant and economically successful Michigan.”

Since 2007, the CEA has been the League’s most prestigious community award. It’s also affectionately called the Race for the Cup because the winning community gets a large trophy as bragging rights for the year. The 2016 winner was the Beaverton Activity Center project. “In 2013 the Imlay City SEED Group was chosen as a finalist from the Thumb region for the Race for the Cup and competed against 6 other communities,” Walker said. “It was a great experience because it brought a lot of positive attention to Imlay City and the innovative methods we were (and are) using for economic development.”

For more information or to vote for Imlay City’s “Art in Action Initiative” Project, visit the DDA’s Facebook page at “Downtown Imlay City.”

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