For the past seven years, the Town of Ogden has been working on a plan to transform the areas between 24th and 26th Streets into a haven where artists and creatives can connect and earn a living while engaging with the community at large. Known as the “Nine Rails Creative District”, this little neighborhood in Ogden rebrands the city as we know it.
“For a long time, Ogden had kind of rebuilt itself as a mecca for outdoor recreation, and that’s something that’s really supported the revitalization of Ogden and brought a lot of people to Ogden,” says Sara Meess, Division Manager of Ogden City Business Development. “But for other people it may be more important to have a vibrant arts and culture scene that they can engage with. Ensuring our community is well balanced in this way can help attract people to live and work in our community, and help people want to stay in our community.
In addition to making the community more vibrant, one of the main goals of the Nine Rails project is to enable artists and creatives in Ogden to build successful careers without leaving the community.
“When we have students graduating from Weber State with art degrees or degrees in a creative field, we would like them to be able to stay in Ogden and build their career or grow their business and not feel pressured to go somewhere else. to have these opportunities,” says Meess.
And so far it works. Since the adoption of the Nine Rails Creative District Master Plan in 2018, a dilapidated hotel has been transformed into the innovative Dumke Arts Square, the city has funded numerous public art projects and many other initiatives remain to be completed.
Ogden Contemporary Arts (OCA), a city-sponsored organization located in the Nine Rails Creative District, was heavily involved in the realization of Dumke Art Plaza by raising the million dollars in funding needed to make it happen. The latest completed project in the Nine Rails District, Dumke Plaza provides a space to showcase and enjoy art.
OCA Executive Director Venessa Castagnoli was interviewed on the Nine Rail Arts Podcast why their development was important to the artistic community of Ogden. “In every industry, it’s about who you know and who you surround yourself with. You can be a really good artist, but if you just sit in your basement and don’t go out and see shows and strike up conversations with other artists and curators , no one will ever see your work.”
And that’s exactly why the Ogden Arts District was created in the first place – to expose more people to local artists and artisans, and to enable those artists to find work doing what they love with a community of like-minded individuals.
“It’s pretty amazing how tight-knit our community of artists and creators is,” says Meess. “I think a lot of things have happened organically through the efforts of the artists and creatives we have here at Ogden. They do an amazing job of supporting and uplifting each other.
This tight-knit artistic community is exactly why Meess thinks the project has been such a success. Meess believes that despite city initiatives that helped build the neighborhood, the real energy behind the growth comes from local artists.
“What happens at Nine Rails has been driven by people investing in building new arts spaces in the community or hosting community-wide events or creating new opportunities for artists to showcase and sell their work,” says Meess. “So a big part of that is what the artists themselves and the arts service stations here in Ogden are doing to grow this arts and culture scene.”
In addition to the networking opportunities that exist in a neighborhood full of artists, the Town of Ogden offers financial support for artist entrepreneurs looking to bring their creativity to the community.
“We have art grants that can help artists take on projects or support their organizations,” says Meess. “We also have business loan programs that we can make available to all businesses, including those that are creative businesses.”
And while the creation of the Arts District in Ogden helps artists earn a living, it is meant to benefit the whole community, not just artists. The city hopes the arts scene will be a popular feature for community members, making it easier to attract and retain smart people in the area.
According to Meess, “For companies that may be in a completely different industry, their efforts to attract and retain talent really benefit from being located near communities that have a vibrant arts and culture scene that can help inform where people want to live.”
“We want to find new ways for our community to engage in art. Instead of having to go to a museum or gallery to experience art, you might come across it in your daily life.
And thankfully, there are dozens of other projects for those living in development, Meess says.
“We would like this to be a place that people come to visit when they come to Ogden,” says Meess, “We want them to see what the Creative District has to offer, and we want to make sure that artists and others creatives have the resources they need to thrive and succeed here.