The Davenport District Arts Board was formed after the release of the Halcyon Report. Over the last 16 years, a very small group of 10 to 15 people have worked diligently to get the funds raised to develop the District. The vibrancy in the District today is directly credited to the work of this small group of people and a few visionaries. It just shows what spirit and dedication can do, because we have not had very much money to do what we have done.
Kim Pearman-Gillman, past president of the Davenport District Arts Board commented:
"Some background from my viewpoint: It was a strategic decision to change the name to focus on the most significant piece of art, the Davenport Hotel, and had to do a lot with where we saw our abilities as a board at that time -- we needed to maximize our partnership with the Downtown Spokane Partnership and hoped to get resources to help actually staff the Davenport 'Arts' District for the first time, which is what was alluded to during our work with the DSP on the District Strategic Plan. The DSP had more oomph, and we wanted to be associated within the DSP as a special district.
"The other fact was that the Davenport Hotel was truly inspirational and helped us satisfy ourselves that looking at the Davenport Hotel as the bulls-eye and the district as radiating out from there helped us not have to force unnatural boundaries on something that is and remains free-flowing -- where artists and artistic businesses and entertainment venues want to locate.
"During the four years I served as chair, we put this plan together and much has been accomplished since then, from our projects that focus on the artistic nature of the district with benches, banners and events. Now the work with the Met becoming the Bing Crosby shows that our strategy of 'If you name it, market it, they will come.' There are more arts businesses in the district/downtown, and very importantly to the name change, lots of other supporting businesses that make it work. You can't have an arts district without willing supporters and event attendees."
As current chair of the Davenport District Arts Board, I am very proud of what has been accomplished with dedication and very little money. We now have a district with an identity -- people would not be calling the Arts Commission office from North Carolina if we had not made an impact. People are interested in the District -- just not as many people as in a larger population area.
We have developed the benches for public art on the street. They are a direct reflection of where we have come from -- all the metal used in the benches came from the restoration of the Steam Plant, an integral part of Downtown Spokane's development in the early years. The Davenport District has the largest collection of historic buildings in the City, and the economic impact of these buildings is huge because they are able to be restored and returned to the City's economic viability.
While signage is an issue, it is one not forgotten by the Davenport District Arts Board. Signage regulations in our modern world slow our progress as we have tried to develop signs within the District -- too many signs can be confusing and have a worse impact than signs strategically placed for the most effect, whether for traffic or District identification.
Our boundaries are free-flowing. The Kolva/Sullivan galleries on Adams are technically not in the District but so close that they pick up on the marketing tool of being near the District and advertise themselves as being in the Davenport District. The District is a marketing tool for a central area of the City. The DDAB has spent $10,000 this fall in advertising awareness campaigns to develop more recognition for the District and attract people to the District. We are very proud of the efforts of our small group and feel our tiny steps are working to create a vibrant area for Downtown Spokane.
Karen Mobley of the City Arts Commission commented that, "Frankly, I think in a post-9/11 economy, it is amazing that as much has survived, and it's a testimony to the commitment of business owners like Lorinda Knight, Tim Behrens and Leslie Grove, the volunteer boards of the arts organizations, and the artists themselves. If you look at the instability in small and locally owned businesses in downtown (restaurants and boutiques especially) in the same period, the arts have fared pretty well. Is it slow? Sure. Is it progress? You bet!"
We are a work in progress, just as downtown condo living is a work in progress. And when the two meet in full development, the Davenport District will be an awesome place!
Susie Matteson is the owner of Peters and Sons Flowers, Gifts and Gallery and chairs the Davenport District Arts Board. Anyone wishing to help develop the District can contact Matteson at 624-4151.