Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna moving forward with arts and culture plan

Arts and culture is a priority identified in Soldotna’s “Envision Soldotna 2030” plan

The City of Soldotna will start developing an arts and culture master plan following approval by the city council Wednesday. Arts and culture emerged as an area of priority during an April 27 work session, where council members discussed with city administrators how to best spend the rest of Soldotna’s federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

Development of an arts and culture master plan would be consistent with the city’s creation of other kinds of master plans, such as those for downtown improvement and recreation, the resolution passed by council members says.

“Soldotna’s arts and cultural resources contribute significantly to the vibrancy and appeal of our community, and play an important role in stimulating economic growth and supporting community development,” the resolution says.

Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen said during Wednesday’s city council meeting that approval of the resolution gives the city the greenlight to start working on the master plan.

“This resolution will just give us the nod of the head of the council, if you choose to pass it, that this is a worthwhile endeavor for us to move forward,” Queen said.

Though support for the city’s arts and culture is a priority identified in Soldotna’s “Envision Soldotna 2030” plan, there’s currently no actual plan outlining specific ways the city can advance arts and culture in the community. That’s according to Soldotna Assistant to the City Manager Laura Rhyner, who prepared the resolution’s accompanying memo.

“An Arts and Culture Master Plan, developed in partnership with local organizations, artists and culture bearers, would enable Soldotna to identify and catalog existing resources, set goals and priorities to support and enrich arts and culture, and better incorporate arts and culture into our long term planning and economic development efforts,” Rhyner wrote.

She outlined two different grant programs that could bolster the city’s planning work and are available to municipalities that apply in partnership with local organizations. Since some grant programs require a local match from the city, Rhyner wrote that the city could leverage its own resources, such as American Rescue Plan money.

One program, offered through the National Endowment for the Arts, awards grants between $25,000 and $150,000 to support the integration of arts and culture into community-strengthening efforts. Applications for that program are due by Aug. 4, Rhyner wrote.

The other program is offered through the Alaska State Council on the Arts and makes available awards of between $15,000 and $20,000 to help move forward “creativity as a core civic value and identity for Alaska.” Rhyner wrote that applications for that program are due by Sept. 30.

During the meeting, multiple city council members voiced their support for the creation of the master plan.

Council member Justin Ruffridge, who also participates in community theater, consistently advocates for city support of artistic endeavors throughout the City of Soldotna. Ruffridge floated in April the idea of using some American Rescue Plan Act funds to start a community arts endowment.

“This is a great result from our work session and I was really happy to see this come forward,” Ruffridge said Wednesday. “I think this is a very intelligent and diligent way to move forward on this very awesome opportunity and potentially use grant funds to do so.”

Council member Jordan Chilson said fuller development of the arts and culture scene in Soldotna would impact the city economically as well as culturally.

“I’m very, very excited to see this coming before us tonight and thinking about the potential opportunities to continue to grow the beauty of our city. … Soldotna is a really special place,” Chilson said.

More information about the federal COVID-19 relief funds the City of Soldotna received can be found on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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