Last week, the Knox County Commissioners designated $300 thousand in American Rescue Plan funds for the Mount Vernon Arts Consortium. This money will be used toward supporting arts and entertainment, venue recovery, and moving forward from the pandemic in Mount Vernon/Knox County.
In a letter to the commissioners, Jennifer Odenweller, Arts Consortium board chair, noted that while Knox County has weathered many storms over the years as a smaller, tight-knit rural community, the ripple effect of lost destination-based revenue from COVID-19 is seen and felt at all levels.
“Visitors are more than simply 'heads in beds,'” she wrote. “Visitors enhance economic vitality and community vibrancy felt along our streets, in our parks, on area college campuses, in our art galleries, and in area shops and restaurants. Visitors choose to spend their financial resources in our cozy rural county when they choose to invest their time here.”
Odenweller acknowledged that the pandemic afforded the Consortium time to think, plan, assess, and develop solid infrastructure, but now it is time for the three venues to open to larger gatherings.
“... Multiple years of significant renovation and technical investment in these three venues brought the community to the point of being almost ready to welcome even larger crowds before the pandemic hit,” she wrote. “While facilities have been semi-operational with safety protocols, tourism development opportunities came to a grinding halt. At present, a few final steps need to be taken at each venue in order to make long-term goals a reality, and we respectfully ask for your support to make that possible.
“This investment will help us get over the last few hurdles to assist the three venues with project elements that were not possible due to lost resources and lack of visitors for more than a year.”
Odenweller told Knox Pages on Monday that the board is taking a high-level look at how it will spend the money. Initiatives include an effort to create an 18-month cycle of artists and engagements and, in turn, creating a marketing strategy that maximizes outreach for all three venues. Another plan is to enhance system networks between the venues.
“Right now, we are doing some assessment to see what makes the most sense,” she said. “It's a great partnership with the commissioners, and we are extremely appreciative that the commissioners are willing to think about bolstering the arts community.”