Commission approves Arts and Culture Master Plan

MARQUETTE – Folding economics and a community calendar into the local arts scene are important components of the Marquette Area Arts and Culture Master Plan approved Monday by the Marquette City Commission.

The 10-year plan, which will be developed and incorporated into the Community Master Plan, was the result of public and artist surveys, community meetings and working with consultants and was long overdue, according to Commissioner Sara Cambensy,

“What came out of this, I think, is a great plan,” Cambensy said. “I think it’s going to be challenging going forward just strictly in terms of how artists work, how organizations work, but I do think it’s important that as a community that we do get some sort of regional alliance going, a regional direction, and certainly take care of some of the things that people want.”

She said one of those items was a community calendar in which all arts-related events can be posted. She also expressed a belief that partnerships between organizations are important in the plan, which would give these groups some direction.

Walt Lindala, chairman of the city’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, said there are challenges with the plan, including getting groups to work together. However, he did stress the community calendar is a popular desire within the community.

“Popularity can be in our benefit to get things done,” Lindala said.

The comprehensive plan also incorporates outdoor trails and economics, he noted.

“As the chair, I’ve carried this attitude: We have to do something to try to get the ball rolling,” Lindala said. “We may not get everyone who’s a player involved right off the bat, but we’ll get some, and we’ll starting working with them, and the others will come.”

Commissioner Don Ryan said a key part of the plan is the connection between the arts, business and the economy, pointing out business people had served on the plan’s steering committee.

“We’re not just talking about some artists sitting around at a coffeehouse,” Ryan said. “We’re talking about a representative group from the community looking at this from a lot of different aspects, and art is part of economic development.”

Mayor Robert Niemi said he is excited to see the plan in spite of the challenges.

“Challenges bring out a lot of unique ideas from people,” he said.

The arts and culture plan lists many strategies and related issues such as actions and suggested timeframes. They include:

– Assessing existing facilities for arts and culture and developing a long-term plan.

– Reviewing and managing funding/fee options available to the arts and culture community.

– Continuing to operate the Marquette Arts and Culture Center (located in the basement of the Peter White Public Library), which among its duties would be serving as a resource location for artists and arts organizations and designing polices for local art exhibits in city spaces.

– Reviewing zoning and other regulations to identify barriers to artistic and creative enterprise development.

– Initiating professional development opportunities for Northern Michigan University artists to keep people in the area and learn business development.

– Establishing a creative enterprise incubator with Northern Michigan University, Accelerate U.P., Duke LifePoint, mining companies and others using space in the former Marquette General Hospital building.

“I think the community is ready,” Cambensy said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is