This case study is part of a series investigating the variety of ways that Oklahoma communities invest municipal resources and funding in the arts. These stories illustrate how these investments, big or small, can have a positive impact on citizens, civic pride, tourism, and the general well being of a place.

Community Profile
City Budget (2015-16): $48,706,500
2014 Census Data
Population: 13,611
Median household income: $35,198
Persons in poverty (% of total residents): 23.9%
High School graduate or higher (age 25+): 84.5%
Bachelor’s degree or higher (age 25+): 15.6%
From Local Arts Index
State Arts Agency Grants per county capita (2003-2009): $4.36
Total nonprofit arts organizations per 100,000 county population (2012): 6.2

Miami, Oklahoma is in the early stages of drafting and implementing a Cultural District Plan. Miami’s story is a useful template for communities wondering how to begin investing in arts and culture intentionally and systematically.

The recipe for Miami’s successful start has included good working relationships between arts leaders and civic leaders, a holistic vision for the role of the arts in Miami and a substantial dedication of time.

The Coleman Theatre, recently renovated under the management of the city, will serve as the hub of the Cultural District

The outline of the Cultural District Plan includes: bolstering downtown arts and culture venues with an eye to social and economic growth, improving arts education in Miami by increasing artist-in-residence programs, making arts and cultural assets central to the city’s identity, and increasing capacity to develop and expand creative spaces and programs by identifying a dedicated funding stream.

The president of Miami’s Arts & Humanities Council, Ann Neal, got the ball rolling on the Plan by approaching City Manager Dean Kruithof about Alva’s Cultural District and whether or not a similar project could be pursued in Miami. The City Manager then involved Marcia Johnson, Director of the Public Library, to help write the application for an Oklahoma Arts Council Cultural District Initiative grant.

This kind of relationship between arts leaders and civic leaders, one that allows for productive meetings, active collaboration, and project progress has been a key in Miami’s work.

Once the Cultural District Initiative grant had been secured, City Manager Kruithof’s use of  language from the Oklahoma Arts Council about why the arts matter for Oklahoma communities took on a unifying role. By discussing the importance of the arts in venues such as the city’s recent Comprehensive Plan and this year’s budget message, Kruithof is presenting and promoting a common vision of what the arts mean for Miami.

It is valuable for all interested parties when the arts’ role in civic life is clearly articulated. Having a clear common goal is critical for developing the momentum and support that leads to long-term investment in the arts.

After Marcia Johnson was brought in to work on the grant application, she was included in the grant’s budget to work on development and implementation. Forward motion on Miami’s Cultural District Plan has depended on the dedication of time by people like Johnson, who says she easily spends twice as much time on work for the Cultural District Plan as the grant budgeted for.

The fact that hard work and long hours are required to accomplish positive civic-minded goals will be no surprise to artists, arts administrators, and civic leaders. But it is useful to be reminded that any path to a city rich in the arts is long.