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Morse sees new position as 'investment'

Date: 5/9/2012

May 9, 2012

By Chris Maza

HOLYOKE — Mayor Alex Morse remains optimistic that Holyoke will soon have a director of arts, culture and tourism.

Morse said he hoped to create the position, which would work directly with the mayor's office, in order to foster the creative spirit within the city to revitalize it by building upon the renewed interest in the city that the new computing center and some new area art galleries have provided.

"This position fits in with my vision of art, innovation and technology," he said. "During my campaign I talked a lot about using the art community to boost development and build civic pride."

Morse said the idea for the position stemmed from a round-table discussion he and a team of 13 city officials and community members had with representatives from various Massachusetts communities at the Creative Placemaking Summit in Lowell.

"We had some great conversations in which we talked about gateway cities like Holyoke and how they are revitalizing themselves by tapping into their creative base," he said.

The proposed director would be responsible for obtaining grants and other funding options while working closely with the economic development office in order to encourage the creative development of the recently established Art and Innovation District, specifically areas surrounding the computing center and Open Square, with Race Street being a major target area.

"The area around the corner of Race Street and Dwight Street is starting to see this kind of development and we want to concentrate on strengthening that," he said.

The director of arts, culture and tourism would also be charged with creating and maintaining a community arts calendar, which does not currently exist.

"We already have some great programs here in the city, but we need to know that residents know what's happening," he said.

Morse explained that while the city does currently pursue grants for the purpose of supporting the arts in the community, the fact that there is not a full-time staff member focusing on it means that money and opportunities are being missed.

"We don't have someone waking up every day with this being their primary focus," he said. "It's important that we have someone who is fully dedicated to this."

Morse also stressed the importance of the position being a municipal one.

"We have found that cities that institutionalize the position have had great success," he said. "It's important to show that the city is making a commitment to the development of opportunities for the arts and technology."

The position would represent a $40,000 to $50,000 increase in the budget, but Morse insisted it would be money well spent and that he remains confident the City Council would approve the position.

"It's about priorities. This is an expense the city can afford. It's not just me wanting to spend $50,000. It's about making an investment for this city's future," he said. "Some people are saying that we can't afford it, but that is the way of thinking that has kept this city exactly where it has been and where it is right now."

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