Port Townsend Library Director Melody Sky Weaver, left, and restaurateur Kris Nelson talked with community members at the Creative District plan unveiling Tuesday in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/For Peninsula News)

Port Townsend Library Director Melody Sky Weaver, left, and restaurateur Kris Nelson talked with community members at the Creative District plan unveiling Tuesday in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/For Peninsula News)

Port Townsend Creative District plan lays out strategies

Aim is to help artists connect

PORT TOWNSEND — At the unveiling this week of a complex plan to support artists in Port Townsend, local leaders talked about jobs, an artist directory and the need to bring creative people together.

The Port Townsend Creative District, designated by the state arts commission in May 2020, has installed wayfinding “art markers” around town; conducted a survey of local artists; presented the summertime Soundcheck festival and built a website, https://ptcreativedistrict.org.

Before a crowd of some 50 people Tuesday afternoon at the Cotton Building, Creative District subcommittee members and consultant Claudia Bach presented the Arts and Culture Plan. Goal No. 1: “Strengthen the role and voice of the creative sector” to ensure a vibrant arts community.

The sign at the city’s entrance proclaims Port Townsend a “Victorian seaport and arts community,” Bach noted. And while a lot of work has been done around the maritime sector, there isn’t as much formal organization around the arts.

How to develop that? The plan has suggestions:

• “Reimagine and amplify the existing Art Walk,” which happens the first Saturday evening of the month.

• “Expand and promote PT Library lending service to include supplies (tables, tents, lighting, chairs, etc.) to lower barriers to participation at fairs/festivals/sales events by artists/artisans in the community.”

• Populate the Artist Directory, a section of ptcreativedistrict.org.

• Hire a Port Townsend Creative District manager.

The Creative District encompasses five kinds of artists: literary, performing, culinary, visual artists and makers. Its stated mission is to “expand living-wage opportunities for artists who work, live and show within the Creative District.” Its boundaries enclose downtown, Uptown and Fort Worden State Park, but “we also want to be attentive to the whole city,” Bach said.

Robert Birman, a Creative District Subcommittee member and art organization Centrum’s executive director, added the district aims to support artists both within and near its borders.

More Creative District meetings are planned in the coming year, Birman added. The next public meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. March 28 at the Old Whiskey Mill, 1038 Water St. Meantime, the Arts and Culture Plan can be found at ptcreativedistrict.org.

A paid Creative District manager is needed to make the plan’s strategies happen, Bach believes. The Port Townsend Main Street Program and the Creative District Subcommittee — composed of business leaders, arts organization administrators and government officials — have worked on district projects for four years now. And it is time, the group believes, to hire someone to focus on realizing district goals.

Information about the position, envisioned as part time at $2,000 per month, is at the creative district website.

Birman noted the state has designated other Creative Districts nearby, including Bainbridge Island and Edmonds. The state Arts Commission lists 15 such districts at https://www.arts.wa.gov.

In Port Townsend, there’s no shortage of passion for the arts, Bach and Birman agree. At the same time, the city affords artists few opportunities to network, they say.

This is where the Artist Directory on the Creative District website could come in, said subcommittee member and restaurateur Kris Nelson. The directory is divided by sector, and has room for listings of where art is showing, where music is playing and where other cultural things are happening.

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.

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