By Chelsea McConnell, OCC Ponca City
“Old ways won’t open new doors.” I’m not sure who said this originally but when I came across this quote, I immediately identified with the point it makes. Much of the creativity we enjoy at Ponca City Main Street (PCMS) is centered on creative problem solving, finding new ways to open new doors & thinking outside those doors and boxes altogether.
PCMS has been working in downtown Ponca City for several years now. Our goals are historic preservation, economic growth, and the revitalization of our downtown—the heart of our community. It almost goes without saying that none of these things could be accomplished without the ability to look at problems and opportunities with fresh eyes and a penchant for creative problem solving.
When we applied to be a part of the Oklahoma Creative Communities program, we didn’t know where it would lead. We did know that like all communities, we face problems. And problems are often better solved through partnerships with like-minded folks, who aren’t afraid to get super creative and a little crazy.
Enter the Oklahoma Creative Communities program and Ponca City liaison Dennis Williams. After getting to know Ponca City, Dennis encouraged us to ask some simple, but important questions of our community:
“If downtown Ponca City was doing amazing, what would that look like?” And, “What would you like to see downtown?”
Upon Dennis’s urging, we opened these questions up to the community to answer in several ways including questionnaires, various types of polls, and in-person meetings. It turns out, if you ask, they will most definitely tell you. Our community told us (over and over) that what we are missing downtown is art, vibrancy, and that certain sense of place that distinguishes other arts districts across the state and country.
It was around this same time that one of our Board members brought to our attention that the Oklahoma Arts Council was opening up applications for their Cultural District Initiative program. We felt like the stars had aligned for us and that this program would be a good fit for our downtown. We learned in late July that PCMS was accepted to the program. It is our hope that through creation and implementation of the Grand Arts District, we will reinvigorate our downtown with the sense of place and vibrancy that our community seeks.
We are so thrilled to start this journey to improve our downtown. With the assistance of the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Creative Communities program, as well as widely-established support from local citizens, we are confident that we are going to do great things to restore vibrancy to the heart of our community.