City commission moves forward with Cultural Arts Center
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
The Gainesville City Commission, sitting as a policy committee on January 13, moved forward with a Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker’s proposal to create a cultural center for the arts.
The Policy Research Department presented research on the association between Cultural Arts Centers (CACs) and youth violence/poverty. CACs are community centers with programs and events to cultivate arts education and cultural connections, with the primary mission of educating the community and cultivating artistic skills. According to Policy Researcher Kaylinn Escobar, “Research between arts programs and youth violence suggests decreased recidivism and increased prosocial behaviors…There are positive trends between arts engagement and youth violence. socio-emotional skills, but no causal relationship between the two. However, the artistic programming of the CACs can reduce The factors that increase the risk of violence among young people.
She continued, “There is little research on the relationship between cultural arts programming and a reduction in poverty. However, there is evidence of engagement in the arts showing positive outcomes on school grades, test scores, and high school graduation rates…A limitation of the association between arts programming and youth violence and poverty is the lack of quality research studies focused on the specific effects of the arts. programming has on youth violence and poverty. Small sample sizes, a high attrition rate, and poor management of data collection are common limitations in academic studies on this topic. Note that just because the research conducted did not have enough data to support one, a causal relationship between arts programming and youth violence may still exist.
Escobar said of the 699 arrests of minors made in 2019-20 in Alachua County, 42% were between the ages of 15 and 16, 28% were 17 and older, 24% were between the ages of 13 and 24, and 5% were between 5 and 12 years old.
“They have nowhere to go. They have nothing to do. – Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker
Duncan-Walker said this has been a significant issue for her for some time, “born watching my classmates bury their sons…This issue is urgent…it has gotten worse…There is no one-size-fits-all solution. ” She said that when talking to parents and young people, she kept getting the same response: “They have nowhere to go. They have nothing to do. She said they told her they wanted mentorship, after-school programs, sports, mental health counseling, arts and jobs. She said she began working in conjunction with Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon; the president of Santa Fe College, Dr. Paul Broadie; Dr. Osubi Craig of UF’s Center for Arts, Migration and Entrepreneurship; Dionne Champion of the UF SPARC352 initiative; and Alana Jackson of UF’s Arts in Medicine program. She said the group coalesced around the idea of bringing a cultural and arts hub to East Gainesville.
Simon told commissioners that the Duval Early Learning Center was vacant this year until some nonprofits began running programs there. She said there are currently “more schools than students” in the city’s east end, “and I think there are opportunities [for] using our schools… as community centers.
Duncan-Walker said moving forward would likely require a memorandum of understanding with the Alachua County School Board and SPARC352; SPARC352 had planned to go to Fire Station #1, “but Fire Station #1 isn’t ready, but Duval is.” She asked questions of the other commissioners before presenting her motion.
“3 million dollars”
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said it was hard to know what to discuss without knowing how much money she wanted, and Duncan-Walker replied, “$3 million” for operations and any necessary physical upgrades. She also wanted a working group of City staff. She said the money “is a set aside…so staff and our partners can assess all of this and say, ‘This is what you need.’… What we are achieving is “is that we have to start somewhere, and it’s going to take a few dollars to do it. We decided that the problem of gun violence was… the problem of the moment, especially in east Gainesville, and that was the how we wanted to fix it.
Commissioner Harvey Ward said SPARC352 is a great idea – “it’s just a matter of where it’s placed…One thing it brings up is that we need to have a different plan…for the fire station , because it didn’t go anywhere with SPARC352.”
Desmon-Walker said she believes SPARC352 will still want to operate from that space but will have satellite programs. Ward said they had already planned to spend $2.5 million to $4 million upgrading the fire station, so it made sense for him to use a similar amount for buildings that were already functioning “and do other plans for fire station No. 1”. He said it might not make sense to spend so much capital on the Duval Early Learning Center, a building the city doesn’t own.
“It almost feels like … there should be some kind of intergovernmental agency to work on this, rather than trying to figure out which part belongs to the school board and which part belongs to the city and yes, I want to bring the county into it also… And Santa Fe is on board and clearly UF is potentially on board as SPARC352; it’s kind of an ideal Friendship Seven project. – Commissioner Harvey Ward
Simon said the main needs would be security, lighting and a new locking system. Ward said he had previously supported a similar amount of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money for the fire station, and “I’m conceptually supportive…It almost feels like…there should be have some kind of intergovernmental agency to work on rather than trying to figure out which part belongs to the school board and which part belongs to the city and yes I want to get the county involved as well… And Santa Fe is on board and clearly UF is potentially on board as SPARC352; it’s kind of an ideal Friendship Seven project.
Commissioner Reina Saco asked how many hours a day the center would operate, and Duncan-Walker said she would leave that to the task force. Saco also asked about long-term funding, and Duncan-Walker said funds from the proposed sales tax ballot measure could be used to fund cultural arts spaces. Saco thanked her, saying, “I’m excited.”
“I don’t know what the final price will be, but for me the cost of doing nothing is much higher.” – Curator David Arreola
Commissioner David Arreola said he was working on an arts center but was derailed by the pandemic. He added: “I don’t know what the final price will be, but for me the cost of doing nothing is much higher.”
Mayor Lauren Poe said, “I will always support any increased focus on the arts… There is solid science on violence reduction combined with people’s ability to play an instrument. I’ll pull this up for you. There’s a neuroscientist at Northwestern who did a study that definitely proved the positive results of learning an instrument specifically and reducing violence. [Alachua Chronicle was unable to find this research, although the scientist is likely Dr. Nina Kraus at Northwestern University, whose work is on the effects of music training on language skills and academic performance; Poe was also unable to find the study, telling us that he saw it in a presentation at the Cade Museum several years ago. If he sends it to us, we will link to it here.]
Duncan-Walker asked Poe to help him with a motion, and he suggested asking the acting city manager to form a group to work with the coalition to flesh out the concept in more detail, and then when they’re ready, the Dr. Simon will take it. in the school board, the county commission would discuss it, Children’s Trust would discuss it, and the boards of non-profit organizations would discuss it for approval. He said the cost would be clearer at this point, so the motion would just be to move it to the next phase. The motion passed unanimously.
Representatives of the various groups present at the school board
Simon, Champion, Craig, Duncan-Walker, Acting City Manager Cynthia Curry and County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler also attended the Alachua County School Board meeting last night. Simon spoke to the board about Duncan-Walker’s idea and Escobar’s pitch, saying they all wanted to work together to create “a place where what was an educational institution, like a K-12 executive , an elementary school, could actually become an educational institution and cultural arts center for young, old, everyone, so it could be a place where people could learn through the arts, through music , we are really interested in exploring these ideas.
Simon also said that the Lofton facilities area, with the Grow Hub, the GET program and Duval could provide some synergy with the city, county, non-profit and for-profit organizations in the community, including a “cooperative type of situation.”
Champion said SPARQ352 is applying for a grant of One nation one project which will be awarded to 18 cities: “The underlying idea is that the arts have the power to change lives. Cities belong to everyone and health is a basic human right, and so… the project seeks to build an ecology of change towards justice, belonging and an opportunity for cross-sectoral partnerships. The City of Gainesville has committed approximately $650,000 of its ARPA funds to the project.
Wheeler added that she thinks the combined entities could “find a way to do this funding” and that she would encourage the County Commission to give it “all the attention it deserves.”