Missoula’s Economic Development Subcommittee passed a motion in March to pursue a cultural master plan for the city.
The plan would unify the city’s arts and culture sector and create an environment to attracts and enhances business growth in Missoula.
Elaine Hawk, a member of the Economic Development Subcommittee, said the plan aims to create a link between the different arts and culture activities in town.
“It would help the city come together,” Hawk said.
The plan is still in the preliminary stages and the committee doesn’t know what form it will take. It could be an organization, board or group of city staff that coordinates the efforts to defragment Missoula, Hawk said.
The goal is to bring together events and businesses like the Big Sky Documentary Film Fest, Brewfest, Rocky Mountain School of Photography, Missoula Art Museum and others that help define Missoula as a cultural destination.
Hawk spent time looking at what other cities have done. One place that stands out is Austin, Texas, and how it has not only defined itself as a music capital, but also has other thriving sectors of its economy.
“It’s about having an identity that we all get behind, and knowing we go beyond that,” Hawk said.
During the initial stages, Missoula's Economic Development subcommittee plans to hire a consultant to analyze the best path for Missoula. It could take a year to determine how Missoula should move forward, Hawk said.
While building Missoula’s arts and culture sector, it is important to also make sure development will overflow to the rest of the city and not just one sector, Hawk said.
The cultural master plan involves the extensive process of making sure the community wants the plans and determining the best ways to make them happen.
The cultural master plan is an effort to create an identity for Missoula centered around the city's arts and culture. The goal is to create development that will encourage people to come here and spend their money, and the subcommittee thinks focusing on Missoula’s culture is the way to do that.
Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Missoula Downtown Association, said Missoula has had a problem with unifying its arts and culture for the past 20 to 30 years.
"Each individual entity is kind of marching to the beat of their own drum," McCarthy said.
The Missoula Downtown Association focuses on all types of development downtown, but arts and culture is a big part of that, McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the cultural master plan could result in several different outcomes. Some examples are the Montana Museum of Art and Culture moving downtown, the creation of more galleries or a new performance center.
The plan isn't a response to a specific problem in Missoula, but rather a potential for Missoula to improve its image, Emily Bentley, a member of the Economic Development Subcommittee.
The Department of Justice investigation caused some bad press that harmed Missoula’s reputation, according to the committee’s minutes, but the cultural master plan is not a direct result of the DOJ investigation.
Bentley said there has been some negative publicity from the investigation but the effort to help Missoula’s identity was started long before the investigation.
By making Missoula an attractive place to live, Bentley said the subcommittee hopes to put Missoula on the map and attract talent to the area.
“It’s really what sets us apart from the rest of the state,” Bentley said.