Casa Grande Aglow with Opportunities for Increased Arts and Humanities Development

by Staff Reports

As a community grows, the attention is focused on needs — health, public safety and infrastructure. But as civic maturity develops, a community longs for culture and beauty, realizing the value of tradition while growing a sense of identity and pride in one’s hometown.

“What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people,” wrote William H. Whyte, an American urbanist who studied human behavior in urban settings. He believed that healthy civic communities have active, people-friendly public spaces that in turn increase economic productivity.

Communities in the Golden Corridor have a particular opportunity to create a fresh approach to local arts and humanities. Each community can build on its current traditions and document the metamorphosis of diverse cultures into a common heritage and identity.

The Downtown Arts and Culture District in Casa Grande celebrated the opening of the Casa Grande Neon Sign Park in April, which is quickly becoming a foundation for new social engagement. Neon signs look best when lighted and evening activities can originate around this hub. In June, a “Ready, Set, Glow” photo contest and party took place at the Main Street Alley. The neon event theme continues with the Independents Week Passport Prize Party, taking place in mid-July at the Neon Sign Park and sponsored by the Casa Grande Locals and Casa Grande Main Street.

The Museum of Casa Grande gets high marks on Trip Advisor as a “…good snapshot of the history of Casa Grande and the surrounding areas.” Another visitor wrote, “Smaller venue, but don’t let that fool you. Packed with good exhibits and information about the history of Casa Grande and area.”

Although closed for the summer, and in the process of a remodeling, The Museum of Casa Grande is open on First Fridays (July 5, Aug. 2, noon to 7 p.m.).

While The Museum of Casa Grande brings local history to life, the Casa Grande Art Museum offers a diverse selection of quality art and educational opportunities for all ages. It also is closed for the summer, but will reopen in the fall.

Of course, arts and culture is not always officially sponsored or sanctioned, it can be organic and grow from a simple desire to meet and share with those of similar interests. The Casa Grande Urban Sketchers began with a simple meeting notice in the local newspaper. Now the Sketchers meet regularly at local places to “Sketch what we see, when we see it, where we are.”

The Paramount Theatre, with its mission and vision of “Preserving History — Promoting Fine Arts,” will put on an Elvis and Aretha Tribute Celebration Aug. 17.

A 2017 open letter from BlackBox, stated, “An alternate definition for community is ‘A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.’ When viewed through this lens, it becomes clear that we can each make our own community. And one important self-selected community for many of us is the theater.”

The BlackBox Foundation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in 2012 to provide the community with opportunities to experience the arts through performance and education.

Later, in 2014, BlackBox Studio was launched as an educational arts program bringing classes, workshops and performance opportunities for the entire community. In 2018, it acquired the historic Casa Grande Woman’s Club building, which has become home to local theater productions.

Recognizing the power of storytelling, programs at BlackBox are designed for all ages, with performances by kids, teens and adults. Coming at the end of July, auditions will be held for the play “Sylvia,” in which a couple adopt a dog, learning more about their own relationship in the process.

Performances of Sylvia will be Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 24-25.

The Casa Grande Creative Communities Team was one of nine communities selected to participate in the AZ Creative Communities Institute (AZCCI). The goal was to engage the community in exploring unique ways that creativity could be put to work in Casa Grande. This culminated in the inaugural CG Mosaic Festival, which took place last November.

The CG Mosaic Festival was held in the downtown Arts & Culture District and included a Kids’ Zone, food trucks, music, art projects and even a roller derby.

Now the Casa Grande Creative Communities Team has turned its attention to developing art design elements for the underpass. The final design concept will be presented to the City Council in September.

“Casa Grande is a town rich in history and people who don’t wait around for someone else to make it happen. Casa Grande exists because a group of entrepreneurs at the turn of the 20th century saw an opportunity to build amenities around the ‘end of the line,’ where Southern Pacific Railroad halted its tracks to California due to the heat. Now a city of 50,000 that balloons to almost twice that with winter visitors, Casa Grande has managed to retain its small town charm while attracting new and exciting development to the area. We’re dedicated to preserving our past, celebrating the present, and envisioning our future as the economic locomotive of
the Southwest.”

Rina Rien, for the Arizona Commission
on the Arts