Old Town AIR, Update!
Old Town AIR Update:
July is a crazy time for Alaskans! We are harvesting madly, working long hours, trying to seize every minute of golden sunshine. Restaurants are overflowing with foodies. Bikers and pedestrians are roaming the streets and parks. After a bitterly long winter, big sunny days have rekindled our deep love for Alaska once again. Fireweed is in bloom, berries are ripe, salmon is spawning and we are on the go-go-go! Here at Bunnell, we are fielding inquiries from artists, and talking specifics with property owners. A world full of possibility is opening to Old Town!
Fireweed Mural and Beluga Slough Poetry: Two residencies are officially underway! The first is a mural to be installed on a fence at Old Town’s busy Main and Bunnell intersection. The mural depicts fireweed’s life cycle, painted by artist Dan Coe. Galvanizing relationships between business owners and artists through a work of art which will calm and beautify the neighborhood is immensely gratifying. The second residency is Poetry on the Trail, a collaborative partnership forged by Bunnell Street Arts Center with the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center, the City of Homer and US Fish and Wildlife. Poet Wendy Erd is funded by Bunnell to create the poetic content of “interpretive signs” for Old Town’s Beluga Slough. Our partners are providing the sites, installation and materials and maintenance. Erd has been inhabiting the Slough for days, scribe for the many voices, plant, animal, water, mud dwellers. The sings will be completed by December, and installed next spring!
Vacant building turns to commercial opportunity: A 6,400 square foot building, which has been on the market for a few years, has finally been purchased! This is a major win for Old Town, as this vacant building is now being renovated inside and out. Our new neighbors are committed to providing a valuable opportunity to like-minded businesses. This will undoubtedly add to our community’s vibrancy!
Major City Partnership: The biggest news of all, the city of Homer unanimously voted to invest $98,500 in Old Town pedestrian signage and infrastructure! This is a 65% match to our project (far surpassing our budgeted city pledge)! The council recognizes ours’ as a true grass roots project that is gaining in momentum. They are radiating pride to be able to serve our revitalization efforts through communal stewardship. City investment is crucial to the success of this project, insuring walkability and safety which are necessary to stage art and street events! Community members are proud, and visitors are impressed. I like it.
Give people the opportunity to give. This ambitious project, slowed by seasonal neighbors and government bureaucracy, has at times afflicted my brain with worry and faltering hope. But now, it seems that everyone wants a piece of the pie! This past month, I met with a business owner who blew me away with generosity, explaining that he didn’t want to take from our grant funds; he is happier to invest his own dollars in maximizing the mutual beautification efforts we want to see in the neighborhood. I am realizing that, given the right project, vision and team, people are inspired to participate and push it further. Essentially, what Homer’s Old Town AIR Program is really doing for the community is giving people the opportunity to be a part of something bigger, which is the true gift!