By Carol Stark
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Joplin’s creativity was heralded in a state award presented Wednesday, but it was the town’s resiliency that earned it a standing ovation from arts supporters and state legislators attending ceremonies at the Capitol.
Joplin was honored by the Missouri Arts Council as the 2012 Creative Community. About 70 Joplin artists, and business and city leaders were on hand to accept the award, which was presented to the city. Mayor Mike Woolston accepted the award.
“Historically, I believe that Joplin has been perceived as a small community without interest in the arts,” Woolston told the group gathered in the Capitol rotunda.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The arts has helped drive economic development in our town. While we grieve over the loss of life from the May 22 tornado and question what we could have done differently, we have realized that the arts has become an integral part of our healing and rebuilding.”
The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and city government formed a joint arts and culture committee in 2009. The Arts Council acknowledged that Joplin was a community of “great” creativeness long before the tornado, and it cited the creativity from residents as spontaneous murals appeared on weather-beaten walls after the tornado. It made mention of the carvings in downed trees and the process of turning tornado debris into art objects.
Examples of the art community’s response to the storm through art:
• Temporary or “pop-up” art such as murals, statues, mosaics and photography appeared across town.
• Pro Musica presented the annual Joplin PoPs as a free concert on June 24.
• The chamber’s cultural affairs committee commissioned work to begin on a Joplin community mural, which was dedicated to the city on Sept. 25. “The Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight” is located at 15th and Main streets.
• Heartland Opera Theatre and the Angel Guild of Joplin Little Theatre both presented fundraisers to support the theater and music departments of the destroyed high school.
• Spiva Center for the Arts exhibited tornado-inspired works by area artists.
Joplin artist Jorge Leyva said the state award was significant in that it would spawn enthusiasm and participation in the arts.
“It makes us more aware of what we do together as a community,” he said after the award ceremony.
Sharon Beshore, of Joplin, chairwoman of Connect2Culture, said the designation of Joplin as a Creative Community sends a message.
“It provides further momentum to propel Joplin to the next level during our rebuilding,” she said.
CAROL STARK is editor of The Joplin Globe.
THE CITY OF JOPLIN was honored Wednesday in the Missouri House in connection with the Missouri Arts Council award. State Reps. Bill White, of Joplin, and Charlie Davis, of Webb City, presented a resolution honoring the city’s accomplishments, including projects that made art from the rubble of the May 22 tornado.