Silverton Village Manager Tom Carroll was challenged when he started his role more than five years ago: like many WWII-built inner ring suburbs, Silverton’s population had experienced decades of decline, a corresponding dip it its tax base, aging housing stock and increased poverty. It was taking a toll on civic pride. Add to that a budget deficit, and Carroll knew he had to do something different to change the village’s trajectory and enliven the neighborhood.
Carroll, who began his career in Longmont Colorado, had seen the value of public art firsthand. In 2009, Longmont celebrated its 20th year of a 1% ordinance that goes toward public art with its 50th art installation. This kind of investment in art results in a sense of community pride that Carroll was sure Silverton needed.
Carroll’s not the first to discover the effect arts can have to create bonds a neighborhood. Dr. Felton Earls, a Harvard professor in public health, conducted 15 years of research in Chicago neighborhoods, which revealed the single-most important factor that differentiates the health from one neighborhood to another is "collective efficacy," the capacity of people to form a bond together for the greater good at the neighborhood level. Tom Borrup, author of "The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook: How to Transform Communities Using Local Assets, Arts and Culture," takes Earls’ research and focuses on arts and culture to build collective efficacy, in essence, the community pride that Carroll strove to create in Silverton.
Carrol turned to ArtsWave President & CEO Alecia Kintner for advice in how to initiate Silverton’s shift in community mindset through a public art plan. Kintner recommended Kennedy Height Arts Center Executive Director Ellen-Muse Lindeman, who gladly accepted the invitation to spearhead the plan’s creation. Lindeman was a natural choice, having spent 14 years prior to her current role at Kennedy Heights, in resident-driven planning for the Center for Great Neighborhoods in Covington.
Funding the plan turned out to be as creative an endeavor as the plan itself. When Carroll examined the villages finances, he recognized a cost efficiency he could leverage. Prior to his arrival, Silverton had begun contracting with Hamilton County Sherriff’s Department to cover some of its police staffing. This shared services approach for patrolling was working well. So, when staffing attrition happened over a period of time, Carroll decided to seize the moment and contract 100% of Silverton’s law enforcement with the Sheriff. No longer having a police department, Silverton sold surplus police equipment and generated almost $20,000 in cash. Those savings became the fund that would be earmarked for Silverton’s public arts.
In 2017, Lindeman worked with the Village to develop a Master Plan that took eight months to create and included a series of three community input sessions to identify four goals for public arts. The plan focused on using art to create memorable experiences that would be linked to vibrancy, civic identity, meaningful connections between residents and transformation that would fuel economic development.
This plan was approved by the Silverton Village Council in 2017 and with it, Council approved a resolution to set aside 1% of its capital budget annually for public art. The master plan was considered exemplary model for civic planning by Hamilton County and received a Ferris Planning award for its excellence.
Carroll applied for his first ArtsWave grant that then became the impetus for more fundraising. Carroll notes that when it comes to raising money, not every dollar is equal. “The ArtsWave money became a magnet for other funding.” From this, he was able to get private foundation money and some county grant investment that he could add to the ArtsWave funding and the sale of police equipment.
The master plan has several phases, with the first led by public art and youth-focused workforce development nonprofit ArtWorks. ArtWorks collaborated with Silverton-based Women Writing for (a) Change to create a mural, based on the poem by Sally Atkins with the message "We’re all in this Project Together," that can be seen on the corner of Montgomery and Plainfield Roads.
Enlivening a neighborhood is not an instant nor easy fix. In fact, it’s a process Carroll likens to the nautical term “kedging” whereby a ship is attached to an anchor that moves it in the desired direction.
Public art has become a kedge anchor for Silverton’s growth. Since Carroll arrived in his new role, a new UDF has been built; HighGrain Brewing Company recently opened; and a $40 million mixed use development , AG47, is in development and has the potential to grow the village tax base and population to the point it may regain its city status. ArtsWave has documented Silverton success through the video above, produced by CET.
Silverton is working on its second art installation from the master plan, again consulting with Kennedy Heights Arts Center and again with the financial support of a project grant from ArtsWave. This new initiative involves the design of a new public sculpture in Silverton Park on Montgomery Road, strategically positioned in its commercial gateway. This work was designed through a request for proposals which received interest by more than 40 artists nationally. The new sculpture, flanked with colorful steel rods, will creatively convey the village’s name and provide another point of pride in an economic development journey being created through the arts.