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City aims to strengthen downtown through art

The City of Rocky Mount is looking to artists to help bring life to downtown Rocky Mount. Last night, February 22, about 20 artists gathered in the Booker T. Theater to discuss plans for artists to reimagine the city’s First Fridays to allow them to become more involved and visible in the downtown community.

Last night’s meeting followed a public meet-and-greet in December, which had a strong turnout. While last night’s event focused on artists sharing ideas, it also gave them an opportunity to see one of the city’s prime locations for hosting future events.

Downtown Development Manager Tanika Bryant said they are looking to artists “because artists help build downtowns and communities.” Other cities have seen successful downtown revitalization in partnership with artists, and Rocky Mount hopes to capture that same energy. She hopes that as artists generate new ideas, the city and other entities will support the endeavor.

Artists and other interested parties in the community, including Marilynn Barner Anselmi, who helped facilitate parts of the meeting, along with other members of the Tar River Arts Collaborative (TRAC) were present. The attendees were divided into several tables and given instructions to brainstorm how artists could be involved in future First Fridays, which were then shared with the whole group.

The hope is that the meeting will yield ideas that can be presented to local business owners and city officials to create a plan for First Fridays beginning this summer.

Bryant shared that she hoped the partnership with artists would help keep young artists and minority artists within our community, as many of them have not felt they had a space for their artistic expression in the past, causing them to go elsewhere to create their art.

Downtown Rocky Mount already features some notable artwork, including the Thelonious Monk mural and the train mural near the historical Helen P. Gay Historic Train Station. A new mural featuring people from our area who have made significant musical contributions is currently being worked on at the corner of Main and Marigold Streets.

This city will hold another meeting at the Booker T. Theater this upcoming week on February 27 at 6 p.m. for downtown residents to get to know one another and build community.

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