Guest opinion: Kimball Art Center is committed to arts and culture district
Kimball Art Center executive director
Kimball Art Center just opened a thought-provoking exhibition of four female artists who challenge us to consider building a better future. Their work reimagines the possibilities of the built environment, explores social and spatial hybridity and celebrates cultural diversity. Collectively, they ask: What future are we building? Does that future align with our values? We must now ask ourselves these questions as we debate our collective commitment to an arts district. We emphatically encourage City Council members and Park City Municipal to establish a clear financial commitment to complete the arts and culture district.
The goal of cultural clusters is to revitalize a particular area of a city or to fill a void in the social fabric of a community. The property at Kearns and Bonanza, one of the key gateways to our city, is ripe for locally initiated cultural growth coinciding with the original vision of then-Mayor Jack Thomas and City Council in 2017. Kimball Art Center has embraced this vision, has the financial resources to acquire our portion of the parcel and stands committed to moving forward with the project.
From a broader perspective, this project makes sense economically for the vitality and sustainability of Park City. On a national basis, the arts generate $166.3 billion in economic activity. Locally we represent over 1,700 jobs in a sector that will increase by 20% over the next 10 years, diversifying our economy and attracting a highly skilled, creative workforce.
The best part of this project is that the city and nonprofits will collectively own this property adhering to our collective goals and vision for the district. The arts and cultural district will be funded by our tourist economy and not local taxes. Make no mistake: A vibrant, interactive arts district will benefit visitors and the community alike, but Parkites will have an ability to tap the opportunities presented by the district year-round.
Art organizations and their impact on society are unique — funding stays localized and will be felt instantly within city limits. Related industries such as commerce and food industries get an economic boost that will benefit all, especially as bike and pedestrian trails that connect the district to Old Town are activated. This portion of Park City has the opportunity to grow our fiscal pie, not draining the Park City tax base but increasing and diversifying it. Rising economic tides will benefit all area businesses.
This project will connect the Rail Trail, Iron Horse, Main Street, Poison Creek, Prospector and the Sundance Theatre District. This location is near the schools, and research shows that an arts education helps develop creative-problem solving skills, increases test scores and nurtures self-confidence, compassion and imagination.
The Park City arts and culture district is a public/private partnership. Per the 2017 agreement, Kimball Art Center has already paid the city over $500,000 toward purchase of our portion of the district. Despite concerns expressed by others, Kimball Art Center has funds in reserve to purchase the property. We plan for a robust capital campaign to support a 30,000-square-foot art space, attracting more side-lined funding into our local cultural infrastructure.
As we rebound from one of the most challenging years in history, let’s do so with courage, creativity and economic diversity. A cultural district will help us recover economically, socially and psychologically from the pandemic’s devastating losses while building toward a more resilient, vibrant and inclusive future.
The new exhibition at our new home at the YARD, 1251 Kearns Blvd., portrays four varied Utopian visions of the world. Likewise, this once-in-a-generation opportunity aspires to turn an under-utilized 5-acre plot into something special. The exhibit is a stark reminder of the ability of art to help lead a community on a journey towards a better future. Kimball Art Center is committed to being Park City’s partner, and it is our fervent hope that this journey results in a dedicated arts and cultural district.
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Diane Thompson writes that City Hall should not be involved in financing or building an arts and culture district. Instead, it should sell the land to a developer to pursue the project.