JEFFERSONVILLE — Residents in Jeffersonville have a unique chance right now to help shape their city's future by giving input on what the new arts and cultural district should grow into.
At a public gathering Thursday, hosted by the Jeffersonville Public Arts Commission and the City of Jeffersonville, people learned about the new district and offered their thoughts on the direction it should take.
They visited stations and offered suggestions on names for the neighborhood which is bound by Court Avenue, Michigan Avenue, 9th and Spring streets. They added their thoughts on what the new spot should feel like — whimsical, organic, edgy, comfortable, folksy, urban, playful? Stickers dotted a large board to show which ideas were most popular.
People also gave ideas on what kinds of shops, restaurants and amenities they'd like to see in the area.
“This is stuff we really need to know,” Dawn Spyker, Jeffersonville public arts administrator, said. “We are going to take it to the next pubic art commissioners' meeting, sift through it and really consider what people are telling us.”
A rotation of quick presentations took the audience through some of the visions planned for the district — connectivity to other cool spots in the city like Big Four Park and the River Stage. They talked of the five things successful areas have — attractiveness, activities, availability, assurance and accessibility.
“We have to be open,” Spyker said. “We have to be inviting.”
One of the first big moves for the district is already in place — painting the giant water tank on Michigan Avenue to serve as a neighborhood beacon. The artist is Willfred E. Seig III, who has under his belt the bright, city murals like Joey Ley Antiques and Royals Chicken in Louisville, Honey Crème Donuts in New Albany and others.
“We have all these artists around us,” Spyker said. “We thought 'Who do we have that can work big, can work fast, can work bright [ and] vibrant?'”
The mural is expected to be finished this year.
“We need something to anchor us,” Spyker said. “We need something that's a focal point that pops, that's a calling card, that there is no way you could not know where the arts and cultural district is. It's there. It's the giant tank. You can't miss it.”
Sarah Young, who's with the Jeffersonville Arts Alliance, moved to the city last year from Louisville and found it easy to get involved, and meaningful to be a part of the community.
“This seen in motion is truly magical,” she said, of the district coming to life. “I've never witnessed such a community effort to make something happen. It is pulling together so well and I am proud to be a Jeffersonville resident.”
Mike and Nikki Reiter, retired musicians who moved to Jeffersonville three years ago, said the same.
“That's why we moved here,” Nikki said. “It's smaller and it's easier to get involved.”
For Angela Ray and her daughters, 11-year-old Vivian Dognaux and 13-year-old Zoe Dognaux, they love that they can walk downtown and be immersed in art so quickly. Vivian estimated that she's made at least 20 pieces of art at Silica Ceramics Studio, co-owned by Spyker.
The two have also taken part in several of the public art projects in town. Community members all make part of the piece and a professional artist incorporates it into one bigger piece. The girls always show their friends and family, as a source of pride.
“We show them Big Four Park and some of the art that everyone helps with,” Vivian said.
Their mother has lived in Jeffersonville for the past 16 years and said she wouldn't have it any other way. She appreciates that her small town is blossoming.
“I think it's good,” she said. “I've always loved Jeff, even before the [Big Four] Bridge. I love living in a small town with Louisville right there.”