Mount Vernon Unveils First Arts, Culture & Heritage Master Plan; Designed to Spur Economic Growth

Mayor Richard Thomas unveiled Mount Vernon’s first Arts, Culture & Heritage Master Plan, a blueprint for economic development that capitalizes on the city’s rich history as a home to legendary singers, actors and entertainers, such as Nina Simone, Denzel Washington, Dick Clark. P. Diddy and Heavy D to name a few.

The product of months collaboration among artists, community members, business leaders, professional planners and city officials, the Master Plan includes 21 recommendations, which are designed to help local businesses capture the almost $400 million that Mount Vernon residents spend outside the city each year, as well as generate new revenue.

“The Master Plan builds on Mount Vernon ‘s strengths,” Mayor Thomas said. “We have the talent — arts and culture have long been part of Mount Vernon’s DNA — and we have the location — more affordable than New York City but just minutes away. Combine that with the right incentives and you create a new cultural destination that grows our economy now and into the future.”

Planning Commissioner Chantelle Okarter emphasized that an “incentive community input process.” which included surveys and large and small group conversations and meetings, went into developing the recommendations. She thanked CJAM Consulting for spearheading the effort and the New York State Council on the Arts for funding the initiative.

“This Master Plan is the result of the tireless efforts of our community,” said Okarter. “It acknowledges arts and culture are part of the fabric of our community and provides a tool for increasing tourism and creating jobs.”

Areas the recommendations fall under include:

Governance: · Appoint a City Curator for Arts, Culture and Heritage, who would design strategies and implement policies promoting economic development through the arts.

Identity: · Develop a branding campaign that communicates inside and outside Mount Vernon the power of the city’s arts, entertainment and cultural offerings.

Funding: · Support Mount Vernon’s arts, culture and heritage by funding a dedicated line in the budget each year. Separately, enact a 1% surcharge on developers, similar to hotel taxes, to be dedicated to promoting the arts economy.

Community Input: · Create and Arts, Culture and Heritage Commission — an appointed group of up to 15 individuals drawn from all city sectors: government, economic development, housing, education, historic preservation, heritage organizations, nonprofit arts and businesses to provide advice and support to the City Curator on cultural policy planning and development.

Performance Space: · Create an arts incubator with full, back and front of the house capabilities that can host workshops, rehearsals, performances and exhibitions.

Housing: · Extend Community Development Block Grants to converting “zombie” homes into live and work spaces for artists.

The presentation and reception were held at Luxe V Events at 58 Gramatan Avenue in Mount Vernon. The event featured works from the Performing and Visual Arts Magnet School and Thornton High School and music by the Performing and Visual Arts Magnet School String Ensemble. More than 100 people, including visual and performing artists, were in attendance to hear the vision and strategy proposed in the plan. Many expressed interest in being part of the Arts, Culture and Heritage Commission.

Click HERE for the full plan.

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Mayor Richard Thomas

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At 33, Richard Thomas is the youngest Mayor in Mount Vernon history! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MayorRichardThomas