#108. Mangum, OK – Artist Alley

Posted on | The Agurban

Mangum, OK – Artist Alley

We love to hear stories from our readers. Last week we received a great example from the small community of Mangum, OK that is on its way to becoming an “art mecca”, #3 on our 2007 Trend List. Jack just got back from a series of talks in Oklahoma and talked about the burgeoning artist town of Cordell, OK, a small community just 45 miles northeast of Mangum.

Maxine Thomason with the Mangum Main Street program tells us her town’s story:

“We just wanted you to know that your “trend research” is right on the mark. Our small community of 2900 has opened 6 art galleries in the last year. The galleries have been featured on RFD TV and on our public broadcasting network. The artists have been asked to share their story at the upcoming Oklahoma Community Institute in March in Oklahoma City.

An Art community was probably the farthest thing from our minds as we set out to revitalize our downtown. We joined the Main Street organization in 2004 and began seriously studying what was needed to support our local businesses and to recruit new businesses to the area. A woman who had grown up in our area returned and opened a small pottery business on the outskirts of town. She began to draw visitors from our local Quartz Mountain Resort and surrounding area.

In April of 2006 she lost her lease on the pottery building. At the same time, another Main Street community had been in contact with the Oklahoma Arts Council and was using a “circuit rider” to locate artists in their quadrant of the state. We requested assistance in doing that same thing. To our delight, 35 artists came to our first meeting! They included potters, pen and ink, pencil, acrylic and oil, a bronze sculptor, writers, fabric artists, and jewelry designers. Amazing!

I began looking for a place to locate the potter downtown. Another returning hometown family had purchased an abandoned building downtown and was renovating the upper floor for a loft apartment. We were able to work out a low-cost rental agreement for the potter to have one of the spaces downstairs. Within the next 6 months, 5 other artists opened studios in this building. One space is used as a gallery for the artists of the larger organization called Art on the Square. Artist Alley, as the street is now called, has become a “draw” (no pun intended) for our downtown. The potter has more than doubled her income and the others are reporting increased sales as well.

Our community has just received notice of a 9% growth in sales tax revenue in this past year. We attribute at least part of that to the artists and their affect on our quality of life. We are using advertising, flyers at the local resort, participation in community events, and, soon, a web site to spread the word.

The bronze sculptor, Michael Zecca, travels all over the US and is a great recruiter for us. He hands out leaflets telling why he moved here and encouraging others to do the same.

We are actively recruiting other artists who are looking for affordable housing/studio space and the kind of life-style reminiscent of the 50’s. You know- kids on bikes, people walking in the evening, neighbors visiting in the grocery store, social events centered around the town square. We may be small, but we are serious about saving our community and its way of life. We have been the beneficiary of assistance from several groups working with us. Our local chamber of commerce, Economic Trust Authority, banks, and business owners have all assisted in our efforts. They see that what benefits one, benefits all.”

What a great story!! You will be hearing more about Mangum, OK.