We had another all-community visioning session on July 28 at the Mercer Island Community Center. There were about 25 islanders in attendance and we gladly were surprised by the number of walk-ins, but our goal has been to reach every Islander that wants to have a voice.
We began by reinforcing that this was a “visioning” session and our hope was for the room to think big. And they delivered! There was plenty of robust discussion about the greater value of arts. In general though, the conversations stayed close to the themes we’ve heard so far around the desire for more community-building, the need to increase collaboration between arts groups, and a hunger for more arts-related activities. We heard many comments about existing community spaces being too crowded and how tired some residents are of having to shuttle their kids off island for activities. Many agreed that whatever the space ends up being, it should be inviting and open to all.
There were also comments about the importance of providing access to the arts for all, because this sometimes results in homegrown artists making a name for themselves in the mainstream (which then becomes a source of pride for the community). We also heard excitement about potentially bringing new life to the town center and having more reasons to stay on the island for entertainment.
We’d be remiss not to point out that while a majority of the conversation was positive, some participants approached the discussion more concern than others and brought some valid, important questions to the table. Most of the concerns expressed that day reinforced what we’ve heard before like cost, parking and long-term sustainability.
Something that surfaced more often in this group than in others was the enthusiasm for intergenerational programming—that a potential arts and culture center should not just be focused on youth/young people but also involve older adults who have yet to discover their talents. When asked about specific programming needs, most individuals had their list of personal favorites, but some responses went in an unexpectedly inspirational direction! Some groups talked at length about the broader significance of art in people’s lives, about the power of art to build community, and about the lifelong value of engaging in or with the arts. In fact, someone even talked about art as “food for the soul.”