MESA, Ariz.- The City of Mesa is positioning itself to become a destination for creative types. In doing so, city leaders hope to attract innovators in the new “creative economy.”
“When you have artists in the mix, not only do they provide an environment of art to enjoy, but they attract creators and innovators from other walks of life,” said Cindy Ornstein, Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center.
Job experts say the “creative economy” or “artisan economy” is expected to boom as technology improves and other jobs disappear. The term is used to describe the marketplace – largely based over the internet – where one-man companies or small businesses sell items that are artistic or technological.
The city’s very identity has been re-shaped in recent years by the opening of the “i.d.e.a. museum”, which combines art, science and technology.
This weekend, Mesa will be the first city in Arizona to incorporate an international movement, “Play Me, I’m Yours.” Twenty four playable and artistically enhanced pianos will be on display at locations around Mesa for several weeks. In March, the City of Mesa will host the Southwest Maker Fest (March 12) and Spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity (March 18-19.) The city plans to break ground next year on a housing development of 50 “live work spaces” for artists.
Some of the projects involve city dollars designated for the arts. Other programs rely on donations and non-profit funds.
Ornstein said the city’s emphasis on the arts gained momentum several years ago when business leaders decided “there was something special” in Mesa involving grass-roots businesses and artists that needed to be publicized.
“You had a group of downtown activists and business owners who valued our incredible assets here,” Ornstein said. “They wanted to capitalize on that.”
The city is also home to the HeatSync Labs, a nonprofit group that runs a workshop in a storefront on Main Street Members of the group pay a monthly $50 fee. Anyone from the public is invited to use the group’s tools for personal projects. There’s a sewing machine, laser cutter, 3-D printer, traditional hardware tools and a lot more.
Greg Young, a retired computer consultant, is using the facility to craft a home control panel for lighting, music and alarm system. Young said if the prototype is a success, he would like to try to sell it as a product.
“It’s great because you can come here whenever they (board members) are here,” Young said. “This has kind of allowed me to fulfill a dream.”
A Mesa art studio, Collaborative, allows customers to learn how to weld, paint and sew clothes. The studio’s owner, Ceri Jones, has been busy. For example, she has taught welding classes to 1,500 people since the business opened three years ago.
“We got a lot of people trying every medium they can get their hands on just to see which one speaks to their heart,” Jones said.
Some of her customers apply their skills toward a business. Others just want to try something new.
“One of the things we specialize in helping people understand the creative process,” Jones said.