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Carrboro community gathers, creates art district plans

Saturday at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, Creative Carrboro offered community members the opportunity to voice their opinions on a proposal to create an arts and creativity district in the town.

Creative Carrboro has been collecting information since 2013 to provide a comprehensive plan of its project to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

“For 30 years, Carrboro has used the arts as a basis of its economy,” said Art Menius, spearhead of the project and former executive director of the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. “We have to figure out how to maintain a robust creative economy with the pressures of rental and land becoming higher and higher in price all the time.”

The event was designed to engage the community and seek feedback on project plans.

“The Carrboro Farmers’ Market on a Saturday is where it happens,” Menius said. “We’re looking at folks who are drawn to Carrboro by the Farmers’ Market, because we think this audience is great for creativity and for arts and culture in the town of Carrboro.”

Linda Carol Davis, a regular at the Farmers’ Market, said she was not aware of the project until Saturday.

“I was just coming by and happened to see some people that I know and thought, ‘What are they up to?’ and they told me to come on into the Creative Carrboro gazebo,” she said.

Davis said she was impressed by Saturday’s campaign and the ideas proposed by Creative Carrboro.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea,” she said. “Because even if you don’t buy something, just being around art and artists is very fulfilling and gives you a great sense of the light and this experience we’re all having.”

Creative Carrboro is made up of seven members from diverse professional backgrounds, which Carrboro Recreation and Parks director Anita Jones-McNair thinks makes the project effective.

“Between all the meetings of the minds, hopefully we can come up with something very comprehensive,” Jones-McNair said.

Creative Carrboro hopes to present its findings regarding the district to the Board of Aldermen early next year, and while a lot of research has already been done, the financial details are still unclear.

One unresolved issue is whether use of the district should be paid by visitors, funded by taxes or made free.

“We’re seeking what is in the best interest of the community, and raising taxes, additional funds ... may not necessarily be what we need to be doing,” said Jones-McNair.

Menius said it is too early to tell.

“It could, way down the road, become a special tax district through the Board of Aldermen, but that’s way, way off in the future,” he said.

Davis said she is in favor of visitors and patrons paying, and that she hopes the district will be put into place sooner rather than later.

“Time is passing, and we need it,” she said. “And the artists who already live here and who could come and live here are ready to get going.”

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