December 5, 2021

Arts master plan in works

Group’s $100,000 project would create arts district in Cortland

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Downtown Revitalization Initiative and Cortland Downtown Partnership representatives Frank Kelly, left, and Adam Megivern stand near the freshly painted mural at the Cortland Corset Company building Wednesday in Cortland.

The greater Cortland area will be a focus of a $100,000 project to create an arts master plan across five Central New York counties, with the idea of turning a $34 million industry that employs 1,800 people into something more.

The $100,000 plan by CNY Arts, funded with a grant from Empire State Development, would create arts and entertainment districts in Cortland, Auburn, Oneida, Syracuse and Oswego.

The idea, according to CNY Arts, would:

• Foster growth in the arts industry: A 2012 study by Le Moyne College Department of Business Analytics found 45 arts-based non-profit groups employed 1,804 people and $33.9 million in direct spending in the economy. Rippling through the economy, the arts support more than 3,300 jobs and nearly $100 million in economic impact.

• Increase attendance at arts events, plays, concerts and the like. Each attendant at an arts event typically spends more than $21 elsewhere in the community, the study found.

• Revitalize main streets and urban cores with arts to attract new businesses and new spending.

The organization’s plan dovetails with what Cortland already plans for itself, including several investments in arts projects through the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative the state awarded the city last year, including a $200,000 Crown City Artworks Project.

To marry the two, the Cortland Downtown Partnership needs to get the community involved, said Director Adam Megivern, who is also a member of CNY Arts, a Syracuse-based nonprofit that fosters the growth of arts to improve the quality of life.

“It’s critically important the public is engaged,” Megivern said, to define the specific area for the district and which arts organizations it would support.

The CNY Arts grant pays The Lakota Group of Chicago, an urban planning consultant, to identify an arts district. The organization had to postpone meetings in the five communities until later.

The grant — and the district — would support the Crown City Arts Project, said Megivern and Frank Kelly, who led the effort to create the project, and is a member of the Downtown Partnership board of directors.

The $200,000 project would see art displayed across downtown Cortland: murals, paintings, sculptures, photography and more to add an artistic flair to the redesigned downtown. The district would build on existing arts and entertainment options in Cortland while looking at additional new efforts, Megivern said.

“With Cortland County, the strength of the community is culture in downtown,” Megivern said.

The master plan project would look to identify and maintain the value of arts and entertainment in the community, Kelly said.

Details and partners have yet to be settled, but Megivern expects Cortland Repertory Theatre and the Center for the Arts of Homer to be involved.

Ty Marshal, executive director of the Homer Center for the Arts, said the initiative is a big step forward in culture and economic growth.

“For downtown and the outlying towns and villages,” he said.

Arts is an engine for economic development. Marshal said.

The arts attract people from outside the community — not only as an audience, but as residents drawn to an improved quality of life.

“First and foremost, arts create jobs,” Marshal said. “Paying jobs.”

The jobs aren’t just in staffing arts centers, but also local contractors who may do work at those businesses, he said.

Creating an arts corridor could open the community up to the world and neighboring cities, Marshal said. It transitions into people spending more time in downtowns and spending dollars locally.