Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Pendleton Art Center, Middletown: Finding Creative Solutions for Downtown Revitalization

This past weekend I had an opportunity to visit Middletown, Ohio, the setting in which J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy took place. Elegy was a major 2017 bestseller that presented the brokenness of this small midwestern town as a microcosm of America's cultural decline and dysfunction.

While visiting my cousins in the neighboring Monroe, I learned that director Ron Howard has been frequenting Middletown, scoping out scenes for an upcoming major film based on the book. According to several stars are signed on including Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

My Saturday morning visit
included a cup of soup at the Triple Moon, a coffee house with the feel of a Pizza Luce or Beaners here in Duluth, and a walkthrough at the Pendleton Art Center across the street. The impression I got from talking with locals is that the dark days described in Vance's book were two decades ago and that the town has re-gained a measure of its footing.

The parallels to Duluth were uncanny. As manufacturing jobs disappeared in the 60s and 70s the economy became depressed. Re-investment and a revitalization has taken place over the past three decades and the city has become a top tourist destination as well as a model for utilization of its natural resources.

In Duluth, an arts district has emerged downtown and now the West End is coming together as well, re-imagined as the Lincoln Park Craft District. This same kind of re-visioning is taking place in Middletown, with the arts being a part of it.

Here are some photos of things I saw at the Pendleton Art Center, a conglomerate of artist studio spaces not unlike the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or the Washington Studios/Gallery here in Duluth's Central Hillside.

There's much more to share, but this may help lay a foundation. 
Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it.

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1 comment:

revivingsusan said...

It was great meeting you on your visit to the Pendleton!