Islanders attend a MICA community visioning session. The next one is set for July 28. Photo courtesy of MICA

Islanders attend a MICA community visioning session. The next one is set for July 28. Photo courtesy of MICA

Mercer Island Center for the Arts continues listening sessions

While still exploring sites, MICA will host a community meeting on July 28.

Throughout the months of May, June and July, the Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) has been holding various large and small community gatherings to discuss the future of arts and culture on the Island, including a space for the arts.

The second all-Island community visioning session will be from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on July 28 at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center (MICEC). Child care will be provided.

The nonprofit arts organization decided to “reintroduce” itself to the community earlier this year, hiring a new executive director, bringing on new board members and exploring alternative sites and designs to the 38,000-square-foot building originally planned for the northwest corner of Mercerdale Park.

The upcoming session will be conducted as a series of small group discussions so that all attendees are given an opportunity to share their unique points of view. MICA’s goal in using this format is to also foster productive dialogue among friends and neighbors, according to its website.

The discussions, with between five to 10 participants each, will be co-moderated by the MICA team and its community input partner, local research firm Phinney Bischoff. Three key topics are brainstorming a collective vision for the future of arts and culture on the Island, learning about unmet needs relative to the arts and beyond (and how MICA could best serve those needs) and identifying specific programming and activities that would benefit the community at large.

MICA heard a lot of opinions, ideas and concerns at its last community-wide meeting on June 11 at the Boys and Girls Club (PEAK) facility.

“The Community Visioning Dialogue being conducted by MICA involves a large number of islanders across all of the Island in several small sessions and a couple of large gatherings,” MICA Board of Directors Co-Chair Prady Misra wrote in an email to the Reporter. “This community session was attended by over 100 Islanders on a beautiful evening to discuss the need for arts on MI and talk about their vision for an art center, what it should be and what it should do.”

MICA selected a weekend morning for its next meeting, thinking it might give some people an opportunity to attend who couldn’t make it during the week. MICA is asking anyone who attended the first visioning session not to attend on July 28, to save the space for new ideas.

At the June meeting, there were valid concerns voiced around cost and sustainability, as well as site selection, according to MICA’s website.

The board is interested in exploring a public-private partnership for its site, MICA Director of Strategic Relationships Sharon Perez told the Mercer Island City Council at its July 17 meeting.

The council was reviewing its project at the Tully’s/Parcel 12 Site, which will provide transit commuter parking and mixed-use development. Some of the “community benefits” of this project could be housing diversity, public open spaces and/or “arts and cultural events and spaces.” City Manager Julie Underwood said MICA was interested in being a tenant.

Perez also provided an update on the community visioning dialogue at the July 17 meeting.

“What we’re hearing, in terms of themes to date of importance to the broader community, is that [they are] looking for community building and connections, they’re looking for a pride of place, a collaboration between arts groups and a vibrant Town Center,” she said.

MICA would like to work with the city on this “unique opportunity,” which “meets these multiple needs of our community,” she said.

So far, the dialogue at MICA’s outreach session has been “robust, respectful” and “positive,” according to MICA’s website.

“We found people who came in uncertain or opposed to the project willing to and engaged in the conversation,” according to MICA. “We also heard a handful of comments along the lines of, ‘Are we thinking big enough?’, not to mention the many conversations supporting the idea that there is a hunger to bring a sense of excitement and spontaneity to the Island.”

To get more public input, MICA will conduct an online community-wide survey, and continue small group input sessions with groups like students, parents, seniors and business owners throughout the summer.

MICA will share the findings with the community at the end of the study in September, and use the input to direct the decisions on site selection and programming for a potential future arts center on Mercer Island.

Contact the MICA office with questions by calling 206-715-7671 or emailing AskMICA@mercerislandarts.org. See www.mercerislandarts.org/community-visioning-dialogue for more information.

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