Cultural arts plan meeting draws community’s interest

Stickers dotted a map of the area, colorful sticky notes clung to doors and the young and young at heart colored their visions for Jefferson City as the community gathered to discuss the future of the arts Tuesday evening.

The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and consultant Keen Independent are working together on a cultural arts master plan meant to tap into artistic and cultural opportunities to make the Capital City more vibrant. The plan will be used to guide Parks as it works to bolster art and its use in the community.

Parks and Keen Independent invited stakeholders from the area to an open house at McClung Park's indoor pavilion to discuss the plan and chart their own ideas at several creative stations around the room.

One table held a map of the city and asked guests to place a small sticker where they thought the arts could thrive, while another table contained folders asking for more specific ideas for everything from festivals and public arts to museums and galleries.

Another station asked attendees to draw their favorite things about the city, while another prompt asked attendees to display their ideas on sticky notes that wound up covering a set of doors nearby.

Sharon Gulich, a local artist and president of the Jefferson City Art Club, was among the dozens who mingled around. Gulich said she came out to discuss the topic for herself and on behalf of her group, and that a roadmap for the arts was a vital component to the area's economic growth that was usually overlooked.

"We're really excited about this. I think it has real potential for the Jefferson City community," Gulich said. "Arts can be a huge driver for smaller communities, and that's an area I think Jeff City is really lacking in. We really need more art here, and a dedicated art gallery."

Alex Keen, a principal with Keen Independent, and consultant Roksana Filipowska presented the team's research so far with stakeholders from the community during the meeting. While the project only began in January, Keen said there were already several indicators the research group had unveiled.

Keen's data charted the community's median household income compared to the larger metro area, as well as its racial makeup. Keen said the area's above-average African American population and the presence of a historically Black institution in Lincoln University were key components the team was taking a look at, hoping to ensure the area's art reflected its diversity.

The team also said Jefferson City's price point for many activities, such as movie tickets, museums and other forms of recreation, indicated a price sensitivity in the area that would also be taken into consideration. The team is also compiling data on the area's population, which has remained steady over the years and was projected to continue doing so. He also pointed to a fairly even spread of age groups throughout the community, which he said was likely to hold up during the next few decades.

"This data is a starting point for the plan -- not the endpoint," Keen said. "It's a series of indicators that have given us some insight into the community ahead of a larger meeting like this. We really hope to serve as a guide for the city in this process."

Filipowska said interaction with the community was the next big step, one that was important to shape the plan to suit the area's unique needs.

"There's a phrase -- 'measure what you treasure,'" she said. "That's what we're trying to help Jefferson City do here."

The meeting reflects an initial step in the master plan process, which is expected to continue through August or September. Another public meeting is expected to take place in the summer once Keen has an initial draft of the plan assembled.

Outside of the public meeting, input can be provided by visiting the study's website at, calling the study hotline at (573) 340-3988 or emailing the team at [email protected].

A virtual workshop is also available online at or by visiting the study website through April 3. The workshop takes around 10 minutes to complete.