By Sue Sherwood
Forty-two years ago, visionary Islanders identified an important, unmet community need. Those citizens, with support of the city and community, volunteered their time, energy and talent to create a recycling center, “one of the first to be certified by the state Department of Ecology,” writes Jane Meyer Brahm, in “Mercer Island History; from Haunted Wilderness to Coveted Community.”
Island leaders foreshadowed the need of today’s recycling efforts. This Recycling Center, of environmental ingenuity, has treated Mercer Islanders well, and we treated it well. As the world grew to embrace recycling, innovative solutions eliminated the need for such a facility.
Now a new generation of visionary Islanders have identified a different, but equally important need for the Mercer Island community. One of artistic ingenuity that again foreshadows the community’s need.
These leaders, made up of numerous volunteers, the city and our community, rallying together around the importance of arts education, and creating a place where all Islanders can come together as a community to enjoy the benefits of the performing and visual arts by everyone and for everyone. This place is Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA).
MICA will enliven the community. Support arts education. Create a place to laugh, cry and share. These may sound trivial compared to the ailments of our current world, but the arts cement our humanity through time and define who we are. The benefits of a community arts center are only bound by our imaginations, but research shows the benefits include:
• Arts create an inspiring and vibrant community
• Arts improve health
• Arts have positive social impact
• Arts are good for local business
• Arts improve academic performance and job skills
• Arts promote prosperity
As a young girl, I was enamored with the Kansas State University marching band, which inspired my interest in the saxophone and fed my affinity for all the arts: singing in choirs, performing in operettas, developing a love for the visual arts. When we moved here 37 years ago, I brought my passion for the arts and the desire to do my part in enhancing and inspiring our vibrant community by serving as a founding member creating the Mercer Island Arts Council and the Mercer Island Community Fund, and presently serve as chair of the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church Concert Series.
If you have seen the MICA table at the various summer events around town, you may have noticed our “dot” survey measuring the input of Islanders on their priorities of benefits that the arts add to a community. Many people appreciate all the benefits the arts provide, but the three that scored the largest are that arts have a positive social impact, arts inspire a vibrant community and arts improve academic performance.
I have lived on this Island for many years and been a part of the arts long enough to say, without a shred of doubt, these are all true. The efforts to create a community arts center where we as neighbors can gather year-round is supported by the majority of Islanders. The most important thing in a community art center, is the community.
And I am grateful to be part of a group that is once again looking toward the future, and meeting the needs of our community.
Sue Sherwood is a board member of Mercer Island Center for the Arts.