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Lexington, Mo., is located about an hour’s drive from Kansas City, Mo. The town of 4,800 will be the first community to be a part of MU Extension's Community Arts Pilot Project.
Credit: Jessica Salmond, MU Cooperative Media Group
Description: Downtown Lexington.
Lexington, Mo., is the site of many Civil War-era houses. The Anderson house was near the Battle of Lexington, one of Missouri's most famous Civil War battles. The house's exterior and interior walls are pockmarked with bullet holes from the battle.
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013
Lee Ann Woolery, 573-884-9025
LEXINGTON, Mo. – The historic community of Lexington will be the site of a University of Missouri Extension Community Arts Pilot Project designed to provide an economic boost through community development.
The project will make the resources of MU’s Art Department and MU Extension available to the Lexington community over a two-year period, said Lee Ann Woolery, project director and community arts specialist for MU Extension.
MU students and faculty, along with MU Extension staff, will work with Lexington residents on projects designed to enhance quality of life and stimulate economic development.
Lexington, a community of 4,500 people, sits on a bluff high along the Missouri River. It was the site of two Civil War battles and is known for its wineries, orchards, numerous antebellum homes and a Norman Rockwell-style downtown filled with quaint antique shops. It is also home to the Wentworth Military Academy and College, which has a large international student enrollment that adds to the diversity of the town.
Abigail Tempel, a project committee member, said MU Extension’s resources will provide an opportunity for the youth of Lexington to explore the arts as an economic development tool and to encourage youth to stay in the community.
“We have quite a story to tell,” Tempel said. “Any opportunity we have to promote the town and show people our quality of life is important. Partnering with the MU Extension not only allows us to promote the Civil War history, the river history and our unique architecture, but also agribusiness, so that MU students and our own students appreciate how important they are as economic development tools.”
Lexington, like many small rural towns, has limited financial and volunteer resources, and the project will infuse new blood into efforts to promote the town.
“It will help us further build Lexington as an arts destination point for tourists,” Tempel said. “Studies have shown that patrons appreciate the town and further upgrade the quality of life and the appeal of that town for new business and new residents.”
MU students with photojournalism, art and design skills will help Lexington volunteers develop tours of the historic community and design a curriculum for a degree program in historic preservation skills at the town’s vocational technical school. A major fundraising campaign for an arts center is gaining momentum and there are plans to expand Lexington’s many existing cultural activities.
Lexington competed with a number of other Missouri communities to be site of the pilot project. Over the last nine months, members of selected communities participated in a series of events and workshops to learn how art, creativity and innovation can build communities and improve rural economies, Woolery said.
In December, Lexington and four other communities within a 90-minute drive of the university submitted proposals to be considered for the pilot project. The other communities—Mexico, Sedalia, and Montgomery and Warren counties—have indicated that they will observe Lexington’s efforts and continue with their goals.
“Now that a network has been formed, these four communities will continue working toward their community art project goals through continued partnership with the MU Extension Community Arts Project,” Woolery said. The program will be replicated throughout the state.
The project will allow Lexington to tap MU’s extensive resources in music, theater, fine arts, film, journalism, architectural studies and art education, she said. MU faculty and students will go to Lexington to exhibit their art, hold workshops, work on collaborative educational projects and teach in master classes. Lexington’s students will be able to attend summer art camps, workshops and other activities to explore what MU offers for emerging artists as part of the intellectual and research exchange.
Woolery said that the project committee hopes to promote the town’s proximity to Kansas City as a drawing card and encourage artists to commute to Lexington to take advantage of large buildings suitable for studios and galleries, which are available at rates far more affordable than in metropolitan areas. This, combined with the rich history of the town and a vibrant volunteer group, makes Lexington an ideal site to attract new artists, she said.
“Through the MU Extension program, we’re looking at how the arts can be an economic development tool,” Woolery said.
For more information about the Community Arts Project, go to www.cafnrnews.com/2012/05/the-community-artist/.
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