The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher, Sun-Telegraph 

Discussing Area's Creative Potential


When talking about economic growth, the big three are frequently jobs, housing and quality of life.

The Sidney community is in the early stages of a process that could promote quality of life, and economics, in an artsy way. The City of Sidney is applying for the Creative District Program offered by the Nebraska Arts Council, with legislation passed by the State of Nebraska. The legislation will show arts as an economic driver, support communities in the state in telling their stories and elevate the value of art.

The meeting was hosted by Jamie Bright, Nebraska Extension Office.

A public meeting was held July 13 to discuss the process toward Creative District designation and moving the community forward. Part of the definition of a Creative District is a designated area with a unique identity, and is walkable, or easy to navigate. The name “Creative District” isn't limited to just visual arts such as paintings and sculptures. A Creative District could also include performance art, and retail and galleries.

Discussion also included subjects like “what makes Sidney unique,” and how to move forward.

Assets that make Sidney unique, according to the discussion include the community's resilience to chance, its people and friendly attitude. Discussion also included the rich history of the area, a good place to raise a family, passionate community members, and a strong entrepreneurship spirit.

The City of Sidney is on the third of a nine-step process toward Creative District definition. The first step is submitting a letter of interest to the Nebraska Arts Council. Eligibility requirements include having at least three organizations involved in the process, including a branch of government. The majority of partners must be within the geographic district. Partners can include museums, performing arts centers, at galleries, local businesses, and community development corporations.

The City has submitted a Letter of Interest, has had the Initial Conversation with NAC staff. The City is on step three, Eligibility Assessment, when the City completes the assessment workbook with district planners.

The July 13 meeting was to discuss the steps and the Sidney/Cheyenne County community overall. Questioned discussed included why are people moving to Sidney and Cheyenne County, what are the community's assets, and challenges.

Grants up to $250,000 will be available through the process.

“These plans need to be acted on, not just sit on the shelf,” Bright said.

She urged those in attendance to think big. She said one community is seeking a sports arena, at a price of up to $1.5 million and a 10-year plan.

“So far, one county has been certified,” Bright said.

Those in attendance July 13 also discussed concerns with the Sidney community; a better marketing plan, bridging the gap between the Interstate 80 corridor and downtown Sidney, bring more events into the area that will attract people. People were also concerned about the number of empty buildings in downtown Sidney and how it could impact the Creative District.

“You have to get people excited about Sidney,” said John Phillips. “People need to take charge of their own buildings.

One of the issues that concerned nearly everyone in the room is the tax structure. Some said they enjoy the town but are frustrated when wanting to relocate a business here.

Bright said Blueprint Nebraska is working on the tax issue.

Part of the goal of a Creative District is to attract and maintain a younger generation.

City Manager David Scott said the City already has the capacity grant letter from the city council declaring a Creative District.

Bright encouraged everyone to attend the Community Visioning event scheduled for August 2. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Elks Lodge. A community visioning meeting is a time scheduled for residents to talk about their dreams about the community before worrying about the cost.


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