For our anniversary last month, Jake took me and Bob (our bassador) to stay in a tiny home in Mena, Arkansas, a small Ouachita-mountain town about three hours west of Little Rock. If you were just passing through, you wouldn’t guess that the city’s population exceeds 5,000 people. You also may not guess that the city has a growing arts district, complete with an art gallery and a performing arts theater.
It just so happened that a month later, I’m back home copy editing the January issue of Little Rock Soirée, which features an article about how the “arts are a great economic engine” for cities.
John Miller-Stephany, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s new producing artistic director, discusses this phenomenon: “Civic study after civic study shows that one of the main things that turns a neighborhood around is an arts organization.”
Miller-Stephany has seen this firsthand. A state-of-the-art theater is built, and within a span of just a few years, surrounding warehouses and surface parking lots are bought up and transformed into high-dollar condominiums. (Read the rest of Miller-Stephany's interview for more.)
Mena will surely follow in the footsteps of so many others. And I hope they do, because everyone in Arkansas needs to know about the homemade cinnamon rolls at Country Cat Café & Sweet Shop. With a recipe dating back to the Depression, Jake swears they are the best cinnamon rolls in the world.
Let's fast forward to a year where Mena has become one of the fastest-growing cities in Arkansas.
Alora D. Boerner
Freelance copy editor serving nonfiction writers, small business owners, and job seekers.