Tuesday, June 24, 2008 | 5:01 p.m.
There isn't a lot of favorable infrastructure defining our scrappy Arts District -- trees, benches, clean walkways and street signs. But ask area business owners and they'll swoon over Mayor Oscar Goodman's support of the district and of the arts. Some have even campaigned for him because of his support of the arts and worry what will happen when he leaves office. Others complain that he hasn't done enough.
But that's all local talk. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has noticed what's happening here. The organization presented Goodman with the 2008 Public Leadership in the Arts Award yesterday at its 76th annual meeting held this year in Miami, Fla.
The mayor was given the award for promoting the arts as a way to encourage downtown redevelopment and for his involvement in starting the Percent for the Arts Program, which allocates 1 percent of capital construction projects to fund public art projects.
"I believe that artistic creativity transforms the way a city is perceived and how its residents think of themselves," the Mayor said in response. "If you aspire to be a world-class city, the arts have to be embraced."
"The Casino Center Streetscape Project," which is the area's first major infrastructure project, is underway in the Arts District and on Wednesday the City Council approved Dennis Oppenheim's proposal Wednesday for the Gateway to the Arts District Public Art Project. The city tried to bump up business in the Arts District by creating an Urban Lounge License, which removes distance restrictions between drinking establishments and allows for five slot machines. Until recently, the city provided monthly support to First Friday events where the mayor has made regular appearances, even read Haiku. Recently he gave $10,000 from his Political Action Committee to support the monthly arts festival.
Other award recipients include Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and pop star Gloria Estefan.