The Village of the Arts — 10 new galleries open this month.
Manatee Players — breaks record and exceeds last year’s subscriptions even in a down economy.
ArtCenter Manatee — selected as one of five sites in the country to host the American Watercolor Society show.
Gallup’s Soul of Community research — ranks the Bradenton area with the highest overall community attachment score of 26 cities across the United States.
So what’s happening downtown and how does Realize Bradenton Inc. fit in?
After eight weeks as the new executive director for Realize Bradenton, I have experienced a high level of pride for what Bradenton is, has been and can become, and the importance of arts, culture and heritage in downtown’s vitalization.
Realize Bradenton’s yearlong cultural planning process, funded by the Knight Foundation, proposed how to leverage the city’s existing arts, culture and heritage assets to amplify vitality, livability and success of the downtown community.
Last March the resulting 10-year plan was endorsed by the City of Bradenton, Manatee County, Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, Manatee Players, ArtCenter Manatee, South Florida Museum, Manatee County Historical Commission, Anna Maria Island Cultural Connection, Manatee Tourist Development Council, Village of the Arts, Manatee County Cultural Alliance, and Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
On Monday, Realize Bradenton Inc. officially became a nonprofit organization when the newly appointed board of directors, chaired by Vernon DeSear, approved the organization’s mission to work on behalf of downtown cultural development. The plan serves as the collaborative blueprint for individuals, artists, designers, neighborhoods, businesses, city and county governments, and the city’s cultural partners to creatively and positively work together to accelerate downtown vitality, economic development and tourism.
In addition to its centralizing role to secure grants from the Knight Foundation and other private and public sources, Realize Bradenton is the connective glue between diverse interests.
It will establish high-performing relationships to advance downtown as a vibrant and creative hub where arts, culture and heritage flourish and attract more residents, artists, tourists, restaurants, investors and developers.
National studies show that even in times of economic challenge, cultural activities attract people and business. A survey conducted during planning indicated that close to 80 percent of city residents reported high interest in arts, culture and heritage experiences, and 84 percent have attended a cultural program in downtown Bradenton in the past year.
This may be in part why the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau just launched a new marketing campaign entitled “Get Into Our Downtown Culture” to complement the beautiful beaches and attractions of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.
Realize Bradenton Inc. and its partners are already drawing upon the collaborative planning spirit that engaged more than 1,500 individuals.
In the works are coordinated events, a marketing master plan, an events Web site, an interactive Guide by Cell signage program, and historic building markers. We are also planning the first public art gateway and Welcome Center-sales gallery at The Village of the Arts and producing an illustrated map of downtown identifying all the arts, cultural and heritage venues along with nearby restaurants and hotels.
We are getting the word out about Bradenton: coordinating a VIP Passport with ArtCenter Manatee’s American Watercolor Society show and placing promotional cards throughout the state to attract more visitors.
To strengthen our current assets we are seeking grants to support the city’s nonprofit cultural organizations.
In addition, Realize Bradenton will partner with the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority and the City of Bradenton on its physical upgrades in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
Stay tuned for updates on our progress as we connect and create together to build a vibrant downtown that promotes the best in living, working, visiting and playing.
Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton Inc., can be contacted via e-mail at Johnette@ RealizeBradenton.com. For further information, check http://www.realizebradenton.com/ and the Soul of the Community results, http://www.soulofthecommunity.org/findings-by-community/bradenton/.
COMING THURSDAY: Meredith Hector, Bradenton program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, writes more about “Soul of the Community” and its findings.