There has been much discussion lately as to how our elected officials should spend the potential millions in federal American Rescue Plan Act monies.
That is, if it ever actually arrives.
There have been committee meetings and discussions and public hearings, all in an effort to get a handle on how to make the most of these millions.
Infrastructure seems to quickly rise to the top of everyone’s list, so do water and sewer projects, and while we certainly won’t debate their importance, we have another idea we’d like to throw onto the pile for consideration.
And it’s a rather simple one — invest in public art.
Local artists Andy Jendrzejewski and Amy DeLap have been humbly leading such an effort here, securing $2,000 from the City of Vincennes last year to help install seven pieces as part of the First City Public Sculpture Exhibition.
The city’s Riverwalk now has three, another three are in the green space across from Clark’s Crossing and one sits on Main Street — all of them representing the unique thoughts and ideas and backgrounds from artists all over the country.
Jendrzejewski went back before the city council early this year to ask for another $7,000 to add at least six more.
But imagine, just for a second, what a little — or even a lot — more could do.
Arts and culture scenes have, in recent years, been credited with saving small, rural communities across the United States. The addition of arts opportunities have elevated towns to social media fame or even landed them a coveted spot in Midwest Living’s “Best Small Towns to Visit List.”
Interactive public art attracts both locals and tourists to look and engage and, often, take selfies that make their way to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook — the artwork and location tagged for hundreds or even thousands of followers to see.
A visit to Louisville, Kentucky, isn’t complete without a picture in front of the 120-foot tall Louisville Slugger bat sculpture. A visit to Chicago, incomplete without a visit to the “Cloud Gate” — the giant, reflective silver bean — at Millennium Park.
What if a visit to the Vincennes Riverwalk became synonymous with a snapshot in front of “Truth” or “28?”
According to PBS, more than 65% of adult travelers seek cultural, arts, or heritage stops when they take trips of at least 50 miles away from their homes, and more than 20% of those individuals look specifically for visual arts, things like painting or sculpture.
A recent survey conducted by the Joint Legislative Committee on Cultural Affairs proved what municipal leaders already know — a city that invests in arts, culture, and beautification is one that improves quality of life and promotes growth.
According to that same survey, more than 90% of CEOs consider the availability of arts and cultural activities in an area as a major factor in choosing a new location.
And it’s already happening here, what with more and more historic buildings being restored along Main Street and new businesses opening within them. New housing projects, too, will continue to bring people downtown.
What then, too, could a blossoming arts sector do to draw even more to live and visit and work in Indiana’s oldest city?
So, if the city council is willing to give $7,000, why not offer $50,000 or even $100,000 instead? What if the county offered some, too?
It seems a drop in the bucket of that estimated $7 million, should the rules allow.
While the arts — from painting and sculpture to film and music — aren’t often considered one of life’s necessities, a year of isolation revealed just how heavily we lean on creative expression.
We take solace in it, we find community within it, we use it as escape, and we see revealed within it the human condition.
An investment in public arts will create for us all a more diverse and vibrant city.
Public art will keep us relevant.