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      Downtown Ottumwa shows potential for thriving arts community

      Studies have shown that having a thriving arts community boosts property values, brings properties back on the tax role and makes communities more liveable.

      Thursday, a non-profit company from Minnesota called Art Space came to Ottumwa to see how they can bring those very benefits to the City of Bridges. Roy Close and Anna Growcott of Art Space met with two groups Thursday; civic partners/leaders of Ottumwa and members of the arts community.

      The goal of the visit is for Art Space to listen, observe and ask questions to determine how best to use the Capitol and Capri Theaters once they're finished being renovated.

      "We not only look at the buildings, but how they fit into the fabric of the community," Growcott said. "So where they are on Main Street, what else is happening on Main Street, everything that ties together in that space."

      Art Space has worked on over 30 projects in 13 different spaces and in towns with populations as small as 13,000. Close said the size of the town is not the issue, but more so financial resources and the availability of the arts. The good news for Ottumwa: there is an energized group of leaders that are already committed to the renovation of downtown. Plus, although many buildings are rundown or vacant, they hold a lot of potential.

      "For us, it's seeing the potential and then trying to get the community also to see the potential," Close said. "And one of the things we like about Ottumwa is that the people in the core group get it already."

      To learn more about Art Space, visit their website.