Bowie is hoping to gain a better picture of its artist community through an online survey that officials believe could lead to the creation of an arts and entertainment district in the city.
The survey of community artists is expected to help create a public directory of painters, photographers and other artists in the city and possibly pave the way for an arts and entertainment district in the city, organizers said.
Since June, the city has been soliciting responses to a nine-question online survey available on the city of Bowie’s website, www.cityofbowie.org. The survey seeks information such as the artist’s contact information and medium. Around 100 responses have been received so far, said Edward Leyden, a member of the city’s volunteer economic development committee, which is coordinating the survey in conjunction with the city’s arts committee.
A hundred responses seemed low though to the city’s arts specialist, Annette Esterheld, who is responsible for managing the city’s performance hall, the Bowie Playhouse. Bowie is home to about 55,000 people, according to 2010 statistics from the U.S. Census.
“This community has lots of folks who paint or do photography, who do it part or full time and there are a lot of folks who dance or do those type of performing arts,” she said.
For the general public, the listing could provide a means for finding nearby artists, such as if an Bowie resident was trying to find a music teacher, Esterheld said.
“It’s a way to network with others and a way to figure out the variety of arts going on in their community,” she said.
Once the survey period closes at the end of this month, the city’s economic development committee will examine the findings. The study is expected to be a topic of discussion at the economic development committee’s September meeting, Leyden said.
Evidence of a strong artist community could be used as the first step for the city to seek an Arts and Entertainment District designation from the state. The application process for an arts and entertainment district is extensive and could take the city about a year to complete, Leyden said.
The designation brings benefits such as property tax credits for new construction or renovations of certain buildings that create living and working spaces for artists or businesses geared toward arts and entertainment. Those who make their living working in the arts can also potentially get an income-tax modification based on information from the Maryland state art council, which administers the program.
Without an arts district, Bowie is losing artists to areas like Hyattsville and Laurel, said Emma Hadley, who two years ago founded the youth-focused Charis Center for the Arts on Eighth Street in Old Town Bowie.
“I think they’re craving a place,” she said. “I have some artists on staff who are begging me to rent them some studio space,” said Hadley, who lives in Lanham.
Various sites across the city such as the Bowie Town Center have been discussed as potential locations for an arts and entertainment district, Leyden said. Old Town, the historic portion of Bowie, could be an excellent location for an arts district and could help revitalize the area rather than concentrating business near the Bowie Town Center shopping mall, said City Councilman Henri Gardner (District 3).
“This part of Bowie Town Center is thriving. We’re losing business there,” Gardner said of Old Town Bowie. “I would like to see us spreading the wealth across Bowie.”
Establishing an arts district could also be an important step toward encouraging residents to spend their money locally by creating a feel to local business, said Bowie City Councilman Todd Turner (At Large).
“[Establishing] the arts district is a part of branding us,” he said.