Old Illmo on way to being arts area

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The area of Scott City known as Old Illmo may soon go by the name Old Illmo Arts District now that the Scott City Council formally approved the designation at its Monday meeting. The only council member voting against approval of the designation was Norman Brant.

Paul Schock, the owner of the Schock Community Arts Center, is behind turning Illmo into an arts and historic district. He envisions the future of Illmo as one where an emphasis on the arts brings economic benefits.

Some members of the Kiwanis Club, the Scott City Chamber of Commerce and the Scott City Historical Preservation Society have also been involved in brainstorming and developing plans for such a district.

Official approval by the city council was not a necessity, but more a formality that is the first step in a long process.

Schock, who is also president of the Scott City Kiwanis and Chamber of Commerce, said that though the area may soon be known as an arts district, there will be no noticeable changes for a year or two.

First, a not-for-profit committee for the district has to be formed.

Then there is a great deal of paperwork that has to be presented to the National Register of Historic Places to determine Illmo's worthiness of the historic district title, which would make it easier to receive state and federal grants.

"The majority of the people are very supportive of it," Shock said of turning Illmo into an arts and historic district. "Illmo has been going through a lot of changes. There's a lot of history and a lot of pride there. Anything that can help regenerate this area is positive."

Scott City Mayor Tim Porch agrees. Although he was not present at Monday's meeting, he was supportive of the designation.

"That end of town needs something to get it going again," he said Friday. Making Illmo into an official arts and historic district will "open up the window of opportunities for grants and businesses."

Concern about kind of art

Porch said a few people in the community are concerned about the type and appropriateness of art that would be brought into Illmo, but he thinks the situation can be supervised with the proper committee.

Shock said he would like to bring local, national and international artists to Scott City to work on festivals and community projects. From street banners to murals and sidewalk drawings, the district would be a place where the arts would flourish, with the hope that the economy also flourishes.

According to Schock, other towns in the country, like Paducah, Ky., that have designated arts districts have seen economic growth.

Council member Joe McDaniel believes an arts and historic district will be an economic benefit to the community, even though he also understands that art can a touchy subject.

There are a lot of older people living in Illmo who are offended by certain types of art, he said.

For Brant, not only can art possibly offend some in the community, he does not believe that making Illmo into an arts and historic district will pay off economically.

"I'm all for developing and making it a better place, but so far, I haven't seen it," Brant said.

Shock though said he wants the city and public to be part of what goes on in Illmo and involve them through festivals, workshops and forums. He is also thinking of getting the schools involved in art projects, with visiting artists, for example.

"I think there are a lot of possibilities," he said.


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