Casa Grande, Arizona: Cultural Enrichment In Public Places Builds Communities

by Craig H. McFarland, Mayor, City of Casa Grande

The Casa Grande City Council embraces the responsibility for expanding experiences with performing and visual arts in public places and providing diverse forms of cultural enrichment. Art in public places enables people in all societies to better understand their communities.

In 2017, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts selected a Casa Grande team to participate in the AZ Creative Communities Institute. Members of the team included Erica Herman, local artist and teacher; Rina Rien, Director of Casa Grande Main Street; Stacey Seaman, local artist and teacher and member of the Casa Grande Arts & Humanities Commission; Gloria Leija, Casa Grande City Clerk; and later joined by Regis Sommers, Arts & Humanities board member. I recommended the team.

This team of five became members of an active learning network that participated in numerous training sessions and held local focus groups in the community to explore unique ways that creativity could be put to work in Casa Grande. The goal: Create something that would have a positive impact on the community.

The team culminated its learning experience with a CG Mosaic Festival held in November 2018, which included creative art experiences for all ages.

To advance the City’s experience with creative art, the Casa Grande team submitted an application to the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to continue participation in the AZ Creative Communities Institute Year 2 and receive funding for art projects. The committee was again selected and will expand its “mosaic” theme to create art elements for the Union Pacific underpass area.

With the assistance of local artist Lisa Swanson, the team has held several community focus groups to seeks input on art design elements for the underpass, which will be divided into four sections: e.g., Section 1 — railroad underpass westbound; Section 2 — railroad underpass eastbound; Section 3 — facades, eastbound and westbound; and Section 4 — cement side panels, leading into the railroad underpass on Gila Bend Hwy 84 eastbound and westbound. 

Craig H. McFarland, Mayor, City of Casa Grande