One Great Place Downtown Placemaking Program Updates

According to Fred Kent, founder and president of Project for Public Spaces, “Everyone has the right to live in a great place. More importantly, everyone has the right to contribute to making the place where they already live great.”

Our placemaking history speaks for itself as the Fox Cities community continues to invest time, talents and treasures to create one great place. In 2002, business leaders turned a dream into a reality when the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center opened its doors.

Since then, the Trout Museum of Art, the History Museum at the Castle and the Building for Kids Children’s Museum have all undergone renovations and continue to improve. Additionally, a variety of performing arts groups, Mile of Music, ongoing Lawrence University programs and performances and many more continue to strengthen our community and region through the arts.

Yet in 2013 a group of stakeholders working to weave a strong vision for the future of Appleton's downtown recognized the need to expand the creative movement and formed a new nonprofit organization. Creative Downtown Appleton Inc. was formed at the start of 2015 to engage the public by enhancing the cultural and artistic environment through the development of opportunities for community access to arts, music and culture.

Simply put, the goal of Creative Downtown Appleton Inc. is to enrich Appleton Downtown's urban design, public spaces, accessibility and walkability to create a diverse, inclusive and more livable Downtown.

During 2015, significant strides were made toward this goal with both public and corporate support. Three public art murals are now on display for all to enjoy including one painted by more than 100 people at the Parklet Place.

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The renovation of the Parklet Place at 220 E. College Avenue demonstrated what can be done utilizing a lighter, quicker, cheaper approach. Houdini Plaza also enjoyed creative fruits with placement of Adirondack chairs available for use at events and every day. Twelve winning photos from a community contest held last summer are on display in the Houdini fountain tower.

Creative Downtown Appleton Inc. hosted or acted as the fiscal agent for downtown events throughout the year. Art on the Town added a fifth month and amped up the special features each month. The Holiday Fun Fest featured ice carvings, a handcrafted holiday gift market, live music in Parklet Place and more. Mile of Music enjoyed a record-setting third year. Finally, an inaugural season of Articulture resulted in six original creations for patrons.

Even better, placemaking has extended beyond the committee. The Houdini Bust was created and is on display in Houdini Plaza through the work of Boldt and the City of Appleton. Art Alley was installed next to the History Museum and funded through kickstarter. The Draw, a new gallery and studio opened on the riverfront through the efforts of Stadmueller & Associates and John Adams. Adrienne Palm and PULSE, a young professional group of the Fox Cities Chamber, hosted three Artery shows, with eclectic artists, live music and beverages in unusual locations.

FREEA with Cory Chisel opened The Refuge as an artist retreat, music venue and recording studio. So many other entities have also engaged in incorporating arts and placemaking — The Ambassador Bar-commissioned outdoor mural, Valley Transit’s custom mural and the Appleton Public Library Artist in Residence Program.

Placemaking ambitions in 2016 are set even higher. Collections are underway to continue renovation of the downtown angel cross sections with the goal of adding one per year. A Public Art Plan is being worked as part of the Downtown Plan update. Watch for a mural on Water Street, a Winter Mural, four by four foot Mandalas to be created and displayed throughout the downtown, and murals created by middle and high school students depicting various cultural and community groups within our community on the traffic control boxes.

Other items on the Creative committee’s wish list include: new chairs for Houdini Plaza; a new outdoor public gathering space; year-round programming for the Parklet Place; and an annual photo contest for the Houdini fountain tower.
If you have ideas, on what you would like to see happen in the future, send them to creativedowntown@gmail.com.

Anne Wiegman is marketing director of Appleton Downtown Inc., a member of the Fox Arts Network. FAN is a grassroots arts organization made up of nonprofit arts groups serving the Fox Cities and surrounding communities with a goal of encouraging trial in all art forms. Email foxartsnetwork@gmail.com.