If you asked what the future of arts and culture could be in Celina, the group of residents gathered Wednesday night would have a variety of answers.
Some would mention visions of amphitheaters or water tower art. Others would propose a performing arts center or space for mariachi bands. Others would suggest a sculpture walk.
Those suggestions found themselves on sticky notes and cue cards placed around the city council chambers on Wednesday as part of a town hall meeting designed to get public input for a forthcoming master plan focused on arts and culture in Celina.
In September, the city of Celina engaged Keen Independent Research to create the master plan, which “will be designed to guide the city’s strategic planning efforts and define its role in supporting arts and culture,” according to a flyer handed out Wednesday.
“The arts are part of the cultural fabric of every community, and Celina’s no different,” said Alex Keen, principal with Keen Independent, “And as you get bigger, there’s going to be more of an expectation from your residents that they want access to arts and culture amenities. They want arts and culture in their lives.”
The meeting started with an information session outlining the goals and timeline for producing the master plan. The process, which is expected to wrap up in April, includes gathering in-person and virtual stakeholder input, an analysis of demographic and population trends and a review of Celina’s existing master plans. It also includes looking at data from similar cities, including policies, funding and implementation costs.
According to the presentation, that process also included looking at decades of editions of The Celina Record as digitized by the Celina Area Heritage Association Museum. Dr. Roksana Filipowska, consultant with Keen Independent Research, said looking through the editions revealed multiple themes, including pride in Celina football, agricultural heritage and the significance of military service.
“The theme of history keeps showing up,” she said. “So arts and culture, as we see it, as we see our role in Celina is to really think about, ‘How will arts and culture activate Celina’s history? What will be activated?’”
She noted that historic copies of the Celina Record revealed that arts and culture has had a place in Celina historically, including through advertisements for theaters and front-page photos of residents looking at art on walls.
With that all in mind, the multiple residents who showed up for the town hall meeting had a chance to give their own ideas in a variety of ways. Multiple table stations set up around the room asked residents to think about arts and culture in Celina, including by pinpointing on a map what kind of projects they’d like to see and where. Another station asked point blank, “What arts and cultural amenities would you like to see in Celina?” One station asked residents to expand on ideas related to the three themes mentioned (football, agriculture and military service) and to suggest others from Celina’s history that should be included.
“Just know that we are not looking at history as just one thing, we’re really excited to activate these maybe lost stories or these loose threads that have been present in this community,” Filipowska said. “So this is a really great time to share those threads.”
Sticky notes and note cards compiled Wednesday included such ideas as a community theater, areas for exhibiting artworks, an opera house that could also host theater and ballet performances, signage and sculptures at thoroughfares and more.
City Manager Jason Laumer said the suggestions presented by residents included both items the city is currently thinking about as well as completely new ideas.
“I think when people think of arts and culture, a lot of people have such passion for seeing stuff where you can engage in the community, whether it’s murals or music or amphitheaters or community theaters,” Laumer said. “So it’s just great to see everybody’s ideas.”
Filipowska noted that residents who attended Wednesday’s meeting came from a variety of neighborhoods.
“I was really pleasantly surprised that we had participants coming from a lot of different neighborhoods across Celina,” Filipowska said. “So that is one thing, as we’re conducting community engagement, we’re very invested in diverse perspectives, and so it was great to see how many different neighborhoods were represented tonight.”
Now that the input has been gathered, Keen said the group will look to aggregating the suggestions and developing themes based on those ideas. Next steps also include conducting in-depth interviews with stakeholders, he said.
The immediate next step includes a “virtual workshop,” inviting residents to take a 10-15-minute survey. The survey is currently live and will be available until early December at this link: survey.alchemer.com/s3/7086674/CelinaArts?