The planning process solicited input from over 200 individuals; reviewed existing City plans; and gathered data from online surveys. The process also included an extensive investigation of existing arts programs, procedures and a review of data related to funding, audience participation and public engagement in the arts. Finally, a review of the City’s most recent Comprehensive Plan, a draft of the City of DeSoto Youth Master Plan and other related materials provided important background knowledge for developing strategic and innovative goals. Concurrently, MJR Partners team members toured the city in order to experience and better understand current and potential sites for future arts and cultural programs. Two specific underutilized spaces stood out: the Black Box Theatre (often referred to fondly by residents) and the historic Nance Farm.
One-on-one interactions with city department leaders from the Library, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Economic Development departments focused on potential collaborations for commissioning public art projects in the city.
The Youth Master Plan, currently being finalized by the Parks and Recreation Department, promises to amplify the voices of the city’s young people and will inform the ways that the arts might serve as a responder to their ideas. It is highly recommended that the Arts Commission be briefed on the Youth Arts Plan as it becomes available to determine opportunities for collaboration. A Town Hall meeting early in the process invited residents to participate in a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the arts in DeSoto. Participants were prompted to explore opportunities related to increasing the range of arts and culture services provided for the city’s growing and dynamic population. Citizen Thought Leaders, chaired by Rolanda Brigham, contributed valuable direction-setting during the period of inquiry.
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