Main Street Eureka Springs wins $40K grant

Thursday, October 17, 2019

By Samantha Jones

Main Street Eureka Springs announced two major developments on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in Basin Spring Park.

Executive director Jacqueline Wolven said the organization has been named one of five 2019 Maker Cities, a distinction that comes with a $40,000 grant from Etsy and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. The grant allows Main Street to choose regional artists and makers, Wolven said, and teach them how to put their products online.

"We'll go to Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, Fayetteville and Eureka to announce the program," Wolven said, "and then people will apply. We'll funnel that to 12 to 15 artists and makers who will go through a series of training and then we'll open a brick and mortar downtown so they'll be able to test market their work."

Wolven said there were more than 1,000 applicants for the grant. An important aspect of the grant, Wolven said, is that Main Street will work to give opportunities to artists and makers in the LGBTQ community and those who are older than 50. Inclusion is the name of the game, Wolven said.

"Those are two entrepreneurial groups that don't access resources as much as other groups," Wolven said. "We're being open and accessible so they realize they're part of it. That's special about this program."

Wolven added, "I've been sitting on a bunch of inclusion and diversity panels nationwide, so I know that's an important piece. Our community is made up of a large portion of LGBTQ and over 50, so it's sort of perfect."

When she was writing the grant, Wolven said, she described the vision of Louis and Elsie Freund. The Freunds came to Eureka Springs in the 1940s to create an arts colony, Wolven said.

"That was their dream, but the piece they were missing was the training for entrepreneurship," Wolven said. "That landscape has changed massively since they were here. We want to take their vision and make that a reality, so no more starving artists."

Etsy is the largest online community for artists and makers, Wolven said, but she could find only two locals listed on the site. That means there's a disconnect, Wolven said.

"People don't know how to do it. They don't know how to take the photographs," Wolven said. "They don't know how to appraise. They don't know how to do shipping, and we can help with all that."

This program will help local artists in a substantial way, Wolven said.

"We call ourselves an arts community but we don't offer a lot of opportunity for people to make a living as artists," Wolven said. "If people can make a living and live here, that's the whole point. You can't have artists say they're going to make this their home and then not provide a way to make them a living. That's where we're going to connect the pieces."

Additionally, Wolven announced that she has been awarded a fellowship through the Kresge Foundation and Bush Foundation to give Main Street the tools to develop lasting funding through foundation support for programming. Wolven said the fellowship is an intensive class, like a graduate level class for nonprofits to gain what they need to pitch their projects to national funders.

Both opportunities will help the local economy grow, Wolven said, and that's what Main Street's all about.

"Sometimes, when people talk about economic development it seems so pie in the sky," Wolven said. "This is actual economic development. It is actually happening and will make a real impact. You will know people this will make an impact for and I think that's important."

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