With the addition of a new mural on University Avenue and Oxford’s arts center, the Powerhouse, located there – this semester Oxford Stories is embarking on a small solutions journalism project. Our reporters are starting a community conversation about the possibility of a continued arts emphasis in the University Avenue area.
Madison Mayfield, an Oxford citizen and artist, is from Portland, Oregon, a city known for arts inclusivity. While Portland has a well-known arts district, she isn’t sure a designated arts district would be a good fit for small town Oxford.
“Portland is an artsy and hipster city,” she said.”It should be little surprise that there is an art district. Additionally, there are murals all over the city.”
The Alberta Arts District in Portland centers on Northeast Alberta Street and stretches approximately 1.5 miles, according to Paste Magazine.
Oregon.com reports that there was once a lot of crime in the area, but a transformation began in the early 1990s, and the street is now lined with art galleries, restaurants, clothing boutiques and gift shops.
“It fits the personality of the city,” said Mayfield. “It’s interesting to see all the different cultures it combines and events it produces. Absolutely completes Keep Portland Weird, the city’s motto.”
Mayfield believes an arts area, rather than an official arts district would better suit Oxford.
“I think an art district in Oxford would be unnecessary, as the town is so small, and having a whole district does not seem fitting to this tiny town,” she said. “However, an art area would be more appropriate.
“You can see little hints of the arts here – a mural, a gallery, etc. I think it would be wonderful to keep including the arts as this town grows and expands while staying true to the heart of this town.”
Mayfield said many are drawn to Oxford’s small town charm.
“Oxford is such a special place, and many of the students here fell in love with it upon visiting it for the first time,” she said.”I don’t see a need to copy a big city’s art district because Oxford is so special and unique. However, finding ways to celebrate the arts that stay true to what makes Oxford Oxford would be great.”
Mayfield, who just completed an internship for the HGTV show “One of a Kind” in which her artwork is featured, said it would be nice to see more art galleries and public art events with music and theatre in Oxford.
Chad Duval, an Ole Miss graduate who now lives in Austin, Texas as a freelance writer, agrees with Mayfield.
“Austin is a city that welcomes the arts,” he said. “While some areas in the city are more artistically soaked than others, Austin, as a whole, loves the arts. However, while the arts are a major aspect of Austin, the city has a lot of other great attributes about it that aren’t related to the arts.”
Duval said art districts are cool, but he thinks it’s better when a city doesn’t restrict something to one specific district.
“I think restricting the arts to a designated district would make artists and those involved in the arts feel excluded,” he said. “. . . Oxford as a whole should just start being more accepting of the arts.”
Duval said he pleased to see more arts-related things popping up in Oxford.
“Oxford is a unique little town, and it is awesome to see how much it has evolved since I was a student there,” he said.”When I attended Ole Miss, Oxford had charm, but lacked the creative aspects it has now. Ole Miss has evolved a lot, and I am excited to see where it goes in the future.”
Oxford is slowly expanding into a more art-distinguished city, and it appears those familiar with the college town are excited for this emergence.