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by Arthur Mehrhoff
Students here at Mizzou often like to sarcastically distinguish between the university and the “real world”, but a vital educational institution like the Museum of Art & Archaeology where I work plants itself firmly in both worlds. In addition to its fundamental role as a teaching museum for the university, the Museum of Art & Archaeology also represents a vital community resource for the entire State of Missouri. In an increasingly image- and information-hungry global environment, special places unique to their communities which celebrate the arts and humanities are more than ever worth their weight in gold as resources for community renewal and even economic development. Just ask my friend Beetle, who never passes up an easy opportunity …
I would like to share a website that reinforces this important role of the arts in civic placemaking. During my fifteen frozen years of teaching in Minnesota, I worked closely with an outstanding community development organization located in Little Falls, Minnesota called The Initiative Foundation. The Initiative Foundation still does great work throughout central Minnesota promoting healthy community development, and its thoughtful recommendations carry considerable weight in this field. If you click on the six images at the upper right portion of their webpage, you can read about their work in this key area and view a marvelous example of their process of placemaking using the arts as a catalyst for community pride and renewal.
As I’ve learned from my placemaking activities in many communities, it’s not that all that far from Little Falls, Minnesota to Your Town, Missouri. I hope to continue showing you such examples from my own placemaking experiences that will inspire you here in my home state of Missouri to use the abundant resources like museums, artist co-operatives and historical societies already available in your own communities and throughout the state (such as the marvelous Missouri Folk Arts program affiliated with my own Museum of Art & Archaeology) for placemaking that renews the spirits and daily lives of our communities.
P.S. Missouri Life and I would also love to have you share your own success stories of the arts as placemaking.