Established local businesses line University Avenue – an older, yet still thriving part of Oxford. Business owners on this side of town say it’s vital that local businesses remain in the area, and some believe an arts district could attract more.
Portland, Oregon is a city with a population of about 647,000 people compared to Oxford’s 23,000. With the slogan “Keep Portland Weird,” the city focuses heavily on the arts, with hundreds of galleries, theaters and murals.
University Avenue is in an area that is transitioning with new business developments, and the street has experienced new business growth, but some also view it as the older part of town. Opinions are mixed on whether an arts district, or area of arts emphasis, would be beneficial.
Art can be found in every corner of Oxford. Sculptures in Lamar Park, The Powerhouse Community Arts Center, and the upstairs space of Sugar Magnolia Antique Mall are just a few of examples of art-centric locations. But would an arts district be supported in Oxford?
Oxford, Mississippi is well known for its creative culture. Many renowned artists, writers, chefs, and other artistic people reside in the town. Travelers from all over visit. Some in the arts community envision an Oxford arts district with residential and studio artist spaces.
If you spend a lot of time on the west side of town, you may not have much of a reason to venture over to University Avenue for anything, which might lead you to believe business is declining in that area. However, according to two University Avenue business owners, business has been steady.
Arts, culture, and creativity can improve a community’s competitive edge, attract new visitors, and integrate the visions of both community and business leaders. That’s why some view public art as an investment.
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.
Kaleigh Hall, 22, began interning at Oxford’s Southside Gallery at 150 Courthouse Square in August. She and her boss, Wil Cook, said an arts district, or area of continued arts emphasis, could be beneficial to Oxford.
It’s no secret, but every year, a group of artists have a One Night Stand on University Avenue.
There are more than 250 undergraduate art majors enrolled in three programs at the University of Mississippi’s Department of Art and Art History. Some shared their thoughts about having a possible arts district, or area where art is emphasized, in Oxford.
One example of a large, successful arts district that could offer Oxford ideas is the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District with a board of directors that includes business owners, activists and artists.
University Avenue is home to many of Oxford’s main attractions and businesses. While some may view it as the older part of town, a new mural recently added an injection of color to the corridor, and some say more public art in Oxford could mean more tourism.
Some say as Oxford continues to grow attracting more residents and students, some artists are being pushed out because of the cost of living.
Oxford resident Sarah Logan teaches at Hot Yoga Plus on Jackson Avenue, but brings new members to the yoga family during pop-up classes at the Oxford Community Market. The outdoors classes are free for anyone who wants to participate.
Bill McCrory, a University of Mississippi alumnus from the mid-1980s, was a child when he picked up a guitar for the first time. Since then, he can’t keep his fingers off the strings.