June 2021

Mayor’s Article from Willoughby Times:

Acknowledging this shift requires rebranding our downtown as an arts-friendly location. To begin the process, we enlisted a group of local arts advocates and artists to help organize the Willoughby Arts Collaborative. The mission of this group is to foster arts awareness as an economic development tool. Over the past years, this organization has grown, developed an excellent board and became a non-profit organization. They have been responsible for or a part of almost every art activity in Willoughby. This includes a collaboration with the Merchants Association on the Second Saturday Art Walks, the drafting and issuance of a call for artists for our soon-to-be installed “Bridge” sculpture located at the intersection of Erie Street and Mentor Avenue, and support in developing our recently adopted arts code. Their work is a critical step in establishing Willoughby as an experience. We are also forging a stronger relationship with the Fine Arts Association, a recognized arts programming and education leader. We hope that our recently awarded grant to build an amphitheater at Todd Field will provide a foundation for joint programming with FAA. The gazebo concerts and the Chamber of Commerce ArtsFest will continue to support the mission. Another goal is to increase programming and activities at Osborne Park. This summer’s sunset concerts are the beginning of this effort. These concerts will bookend our traditional gazebos concerts, and the audience will enjoy great music and watch the sunset over Lake Erie. We are also seeking arts-related merchants and professionals to locate their business in our city. These may include custom clothiers, jewelry designers, graphic designers, among others. Our hope is this rich mix of professionals will enhance the vitality of Willoughby and reinforce its reputation as an arts experience.

Three years ago, we embarked on a creative economic development initiative to establish our Historic Downtown as an Arts, Entertainment, and Cultural District. This approach to economic growth is not new, there are many cities throughout the country that have established arts districts, and the benefits are evident and impressive. In Ohio, the total value of the arts in 2019 was over $19.6 billion. The Arts ranked fourth behind retail, construction, and transportation in economic value to the state. As we adjust to a post-pandemic world, we are witnessing a change in shopping, dining, and entertainment. They may be morphing into a shared experience; a day of shopping becomes dinner and ends with listening to music in a local pub. If this is true, arts, entertainment, and cultural activities could support a day-long experience and our merchants, restaurants, and bar owners will benefit.

We hope everyone is having a great spring, and we look forward to seeing our residents in person soon.