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Artists hope village expansion would bring more visibility

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Downtown Bradenton is home to Florida's largest art community, called Village of the Arts. It's a place where many artists choose to live and work.

Now the City of Bradenton wants to expand the arts district west to U.S. 41 -- a move they say will give the village even more exposure.

Carrie Price Whaley loves the Bradenton neighborhood.  “Ultimately, it is a community of creative people who are working and living and creating all in one place.”

Whaley is an artist, business owner, and resident of the Village of the Arts, a five by eight block neighborhood located near downtown Bradenton.  “The neighborhood is really become a vibrant wonderful neighborhood that is just continuing to grow. The exciting thing is that new people are always coming.”

The neighborhood is full of art galleries, businesses and even restaurants, but does not have a lot of visibility from one of the main roads through the city.  An expansion west to 14th Street, also known as Business U.S. 41, would help create additional exposure.

“In a way, the village is like a book without a cover and so now we have a cover,” said Timothy Polk, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Bradenton.

He says the city wants to amend the overlay for the village by expanding north to ML King Blvd and west to 14th Street West.  

“For us, it is exciting because it gives us a little visibility and exposure on the main arteries,” says Whaley. She thinks more than signage, the expansion will give the Village of the Arts a greater sense of place.  “As you drive down Tamiami Trail, 14th Street and you start to see places that are visually intriguing and you are seeing art and you are seeing sculptures, you are seeing fresh paint, you are seeing something that makes you say where am I? I am somewhere different, somewhere new and somewhere that I want to explore.”

The new overlay will go before the city council next month and the planning commission for approval next month.

The Village of the Arts holds monthly Artwalks the first Friday and Saturday of every month. The next Artwalk is Friday, September 5th from 6-9pm and Saturday, September 6th from 11am-4pm.