Published on March 4, 2014
Artisans Courtyard An overview of our 2011-13 experience, with suggestions for the future Artisans Courtyard Volunteer Network
Initial Hopes Town of Dayton Aims •Find a new use for a former skateboard park •Attract visitors and shoppers to the community •Make the site attractive for bids by a future long-term lessee Our Aims •Try out a “quickstart” strategy for arts-led revitalization based on low-cost buildings and volunteer labor •Have volunteers share in up to 50% of the revenues from a successful tender by the Town of the Courtyard site, to a commercial partner of its choosing •Have revenues from the long term lease tender also flow to downtown beautification projects and to spreading art-related skills
Achievements 2011 •Artisans Courtyard Volunteer Network forms as a nonprofit Virginia business trust (November) •Artists buy, set up two buildings at Cooks Creek Park after Town Council approval (November) •Courtyard attracts 500+ visitors during November/December 2012 •Two more artists buy buildings, open shops at Courtyard (March) •Town completes Cooks Creek parking lot improvements, building for Coop (March-September) •Advertising, free publicity, and Courtyard-sponsored music events draw about 1200 visitors in the April-July period •Donated works by Courtyard and Co-op artisans help to fund two downtown concerts with Eve Watters and JMU Music Faculty (September and December) 2013 •Arts of the World Gallery launches 3D Printer “MakerSpace” and video studio for free community use •Volunteers offer free Learning Labs in Google Sketchup 3D modeling •Donated works by Courtyard and Co-op artisans raise funds for two more downtown concerts
Market Setbacks - Massanutten: an estimated 50% decline due to drop in timeshare vacationers - Tour buses: uninterested in a Courtyard stop unless >45 minutes of shopping can be provided - Special music events: Bluegrass and other festivals attracted quality performers, but failed to cover costs - Dayton Autumn Festival: about 100 attendees visited Courtyard in 2012 (this rose to around 200 in 2013, after the Town included the Courtyard as a stop on the shuttle cart route) - Pullouts by galleries and exhibitors: Bondurant Mountain Arts moved out building in Q3 of 2012. Temporary exhibitors and food vendors once active at CY tapered off starting in July, 2012.
Our Response to Market Setbacks During 2012 and 2013, we launched: •live demonstrations of 3D printing and “arts of resilience” innovations at the Courtyard •silent auctions of donated art to fund downtown Dayton music events and “Colors of Dayton” minimurals •other venues for Artisan Galleries Cooperative members to show and sell art (in Harrisonburg, Verona, Massanutten) to avoid further loss of our artist/artisan base
Other Setbacks The Town-Courtyard agreement hindered our ability to attract and hold volunteers (Appendix A) Riverwalk did not happen (Appendix B) The 2013 Spring Arts fair – originally seen as a Courtyard-centered event – was folded into a townwide festival (Appendix C) Communications from the Town marked an endpoint (Appendix D)
ACVN Decisions in Response The board of the Artisans Courtyard Volunteer Network acted on December 30, 2013 to: •Suspend operations immediately •Notify Town of the remaining shop-owners’ intent to move their structures from site (before the Town’s Q2 sidewalk construction) •Request a presentation to the Dayton Town Council on Courtyard experiences, and on ideas for future uses of the Cooks Creek site
Suggestions for Cooks Creek Park • Focus on Festivals. The Town has a prospect to earn more than $3000 directly from short-term site rental in 2014 (and in subsequent years), by assigning 10-20 vendors to the location for the Spring Redbud Arts and Crafts Festival and the Autumn Festival. • Explore a partnership with the Historical Society. The site could be a venue for outdoor attractions relating to the history of the Valley (see the religious freedom walkway example in Appendix E). • Expand the site. A combined Cooks Creek Riverwalk/Silver Lake/College Street Park attraction might draw many more visitors. This would make it easier for the Town to generate a yearround flow of customers, and lift the interest of future vendors and commercial or civic groups in a partnership for the Cooks Creek site.
Timeline for Next Steps January •Presentation by Courtyard founders to the next Town Council meeting. •Inventory of ACVN assets for conveyance, including the sound system cabinet, a 100 watt amp, DVD player, and all-weather speakers, cedar hitch and signposts, and the Polly Nunn memorial bench. •Signing of lease termination agreement with mutual release of claim by the Town of Dayton and Artisans Courtyard Volunteer Network. •Scheduling of building moveout. February/March •ACVN windup. •Clearing of site. Owners of shops will vacate the site before the Redbud Spring Arts Festival, so the Town can realize its full value in leasing it to future vendors.
Appendix A Original basis for volunteer benefit Actual basis (In the signed March, 2012 (presented by ACVN as basis for immediate building purchases by our artists in time for the Town-requested Courtyard start date of November 26, 2011) agreement, the Town stipulated that Artisan Courtyard volunteers could only begin to share in revenue if the Town received more than $60K from its chosen commercial partner)
Appendix B – Riverwalk Courtyard volunteers had hoped at the time of our March, 2012 lease signing that a “Riverwalk” expansion area would help the Town attract commercial partners willing to pay more than $60,000 for the Cooks Creek site Silver Lake Mill Artisans Courtyard “Music Park” On College Street
Appendix C – Spring Festival During the October 2012 Autumn Festival, approximately 100 people visited the Courtyard. This was on a day when more than 10,000 visitors came to Dayton. (Town-provided shuttles did not include the Courtyard as a stop.) Facing moveouts by disappointed Courtyard shopowners, the Artisans Courtyard Volunteer Network asked for a meeting with the Mayor and Town Manager. We suggested an annual new Spring Arts Festival to be centered at the Courtyard, so that the Courtyard could receive a share of the proceeds from the event, and sustain shops and vendors at the Cooks Creek site. A Courtyard-centered annual arts and crafts fair did not materialize. Fewer than 200 visitors came to the Courtyard at the Dayton-wide April 25, 2013 combined Spring festival, even with the Courtyard’s inclusion on the shuttle route.
Appendix D A growing sense that volunteer efforts would not be rewarded led Courtyard volunteers to stop logging time in 2012 (thus forgoing any claim on proceeds from a future tender of the site). In 2013, critical illnesses and the death of Co-op member affected the Courtyard’s hours of operation.
Appendix E As a potential attraction to bring more visitors the Cooks Creek site, the Courtyard walkway might show highlights of Dayton’s – and the Valley’s – history. Below are photos taken by ACVN volunteer John Rudmin of a walkway near Williamsburg, Virginia, commemorating key dates in the growth of religious freedom.
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