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Plant City Observer Thursday, Jul. 5, 2018 2 months ago

Making downtown bloom

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Evers Street will soon be filled with colorful paintings as Main Street unrolls its new program to beautify vacant spaces around downtown.
by: Breanne Williams Staff Writer

Evers Street is getting a colorful transformation next week as nine artists work together to beautify the empty windows of the vacant stores along the roadway.

The window art is the first stage of Main Street’s newest venture. Jane Waters, executive director of Historic Plant City Main Street, said the hope is increasing the art in the city and utilizing the empty space will help draw more people downtown and economically benefit the community.

“Our hope is to reduce vacancy,” Waters said. “We’re really looking for business owners who have vacant store fronts. With their permission, we can go in and add art to the location and draw a lot of attention to it. Hopefully, that storefront may even be leased and we will have helped produce another business downtown.”

Main Street put a call out for artists to submit a portfolio of their work and selected those with a variety of art styles to spearhead the project. Waters said the East Hillsborough Art Guild has been significant in helping the collaboration for the project. With EHAG’s help the program will bring “phenomenal” art to the area.

The plan is to continue adding art around town at vacant buildings throughout the seasons. Clay Hollenkamp’s immense art background made him the perfect candidate to help lead the event and Waters brought him on to supervise the project.

He said the artists will begin work on Evers Street on July 11 and 12 and there will be a reception, titled the Evers Street Block P-ART-Y, at 6 p.m. July 13. During the event the public can meet the artists involved, talk about the new program, interact with live art vendors and enjoy refreshments at Fryed Egg Productions.

Hollenkamp dubbed it the “trickle-up effect.” Adding art downtown helps set Plant City apart from neighboring communities. It adds beauty and visible culture to the area, which in turn may cause more people to flock to the area.

“This draws people downtown,” Hollenkamp said. “People will come to an art exhibition or drive through and think ‘This is a fun little town,” or maybe “This is a good place to open my business.’ While they’re here admiring the art they will walk around and stop at a cafe like Whistle Stop or they’ll stop at a business that catches their eye. Aside from just making things pretty, it is economically beneficial for the city.”

The theme for this exhibit is “Bloom Where You Are” and will remain on display until September. Artists submitted their plans for the artwork and Main Street provided the paint. Future exhibits will more than likely change with the season.

Hollenkamp said he would love for there to be some sort of fall-themed artwork to honor the changing season and Thanksgiving. Around the holidays a more festive approach could be added to the windows and around March the festival could be the inspiration for the new pieces.

The Evers Street massive window display will soon be decked to the nines, though Waters said they will be careful to follow all the city guidelines.

She said the artwork will be painted on the inside of the windows to abide by the mural rules. Much of her recent background has been art in public spaces. She said Plant City has a strict mural policy for “reasons that are very valid.”

Her goal is to make the entire city as a whole feel comfortable and so she is ensuring they follow the rules to a T.

“It’s one of those things that until you see it you can’t believe it,” Waters said. “It will instantly transform Evers Street. Not that that’s not the coolest street anyway.”

Both Waters and Hollenkamp agreed that the ultimate goal, outside of beautifying downtown, was to see the now-empty storefront be rented out and bring new businesses downtown.

“There is enough artistic talent here in this little town of Plant City to keep this going,” Hollenkamp said. “We’ve got the talent, that’s not the issue. If we can get even one business rented, that’s a huge success. Anything we’ve got to do to bring people downtown that will all translate into more economic opportunity downtown.”

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