COVINGTON -- A proposal in the works would create an arts district along Washington Street.
Ashley and Peter Swan, artistic directors for Covington Regional Ballet, went before the Covington City Council on Monday to tell elected officials about their proposal and solicit support.
Property owner Jason Maddox owns a group of six houses just east of the Repairers of the Breach thrift store and is willing to donate the use of those homes for the artists' community.
Ashley Swan said she and her husband moved to Covington about a year and a half ago, and, driving from their home at Porterdale Mill Lofts to the Square, they've noticed, "Washington Street leaves something to be desired from an aesthetic perspective and is not very pedestrian friendly."
They are proposing an arts district that would provide artists with free live/work space for up to a year. In exchange, the artists would be required to give back to the community, through performances, community service or other endeavors.
Swan said free live/work space is a great gift to struggling artists. "I imagine plenty of artists will be knocking on our door saying, 'Yes, sign me up,'" she said.
Artists would be chosen through an application process and they would be required to detail what they want to accomplish during their year in residency, how they will give back to the community, and would be evaluated at the end of the year.
Swan said the idea is to "create a place where people want to come, not just in the city of Covington, not just in Newton County, but out-of-state visitors coming for filming," she said, referencing tourists who come to see sites where "The Vampire Diaries" and other television series and movies are filmed.
Swan said she envisions the street would turn into a "hot spot" for the arts community that brings money into the community. It could be the site of galleries and festivals and performances by artists in residence. "Regardless of what we bring them here for, they are going to impact our city beyond our wildest dreams," she said.
Artists could include musicians, writers, dancers, visual artists and others, she said. There are similar districts in Orlando, Fla., and Dallas, Texas, she said.
Swan said a grant is available through the National Endowment for the Arts that requires that nonprofits and local governments be in partnership and provide matching funds, but with or without the grant, the program is expected to take off next year, with solicitation for artists beginning soon. She said the city was notified in hopes of providing support, but no financial commitment is being requested at this time.
Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams suggested the Swans consult with business owners and residents along Washington Street.
"We want to allow them to be a part of the vision and brainstorm with them so they can give us ideas of how this could serve the community," Swan agreed.