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BID launches new effort to bring arts to downtown

Date: 6/22/2010

June 23, 2010.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Gina Beavers has a mission and that is to create opportunities for Springfield artists, especially ways for their art to be seen and appreciated within the boundaries of the Business Improvement District, (BID).

Beavers was recently hired by the BID to head a new program, the Springfield Arts Initiative, the goal of which is to seeks to "unify the city's arts community and foster collaborations between artists and organizations," according to te recent press release from the BID.

A Springield resident and artist, Beavers was selected from 50 candidates for the new position. SBID Executive Director Donald A. Courtemanche said, "Gina stood out as the best candidate for launching this new initiative on every level imaginable. We have a terrific arts community in place already in downtown Springfield. Gina has both the personality and the tools to not only bring the community together but to ultimately make downtown Springfield the first place that comes to mind when one thinks about the arts in the Pioneer Valley."

The first program of the initiative started last week with the Economic Development Council's conference room in its offices at 1441 Main St. being used as a gallery space for local artists. Works by Peter Barnett, Patricia Jenks, Minoo Khanbabai and Renee Rutana, all of whom have studios at the Indian Orchard Mills, are currently on display.

The conference room will feature new artists on a quarterly basis.

Beavers spoke to Reminder Publications at the reception for the exhibit, which, she said, was planned before she was hired earlier this month.

As a painter who lived for 10 years on Mattoon Street, she said she knows what it is like to be an artist in Springfield and to live in a downtown neighborhood.

Her work is to stimulate and grow the potential for a local "creative economy." The key is to get downtown businesses involved, she noted.

She would like to see the creation of more venues for art in downtown area, whether it is formal exhibit or informal exhibit space.

One of her first tasks is to create a registry of artists who live in the city. Beavers added such a list would be inclusive of all mediums and would not be just the visual or fine arts.

Beavers also sees part of what she plans to do as a way to "restart the conversion about downtown Springfield." She rejects the idea that downtown Springfield is unsafe.

"It gets a bad rap, " she said. "People are afraid and there's no reason to be."

While not criticizing communities such as Northampton, Hartford, Conn. or Brattleboro, Vt., -- all known for their arts -- Beavers believes that Springfield has "a phenomenal opportunity" for artists.