Jessica Crum is the founder and creative director of Silverlake Design Studio and executive director of the Creative Institute of Central Arkansas, a gap-year program designed for young adults, ages 18 to 24, to explore careers in marketing, photography, videography, copywriting, and design.
As a business owner, Jessica wants to be able to attract young, creative talent to Conway and has seen many leave for larger cities in recent years.
“We are always looking for local creative talent, but it’s difficult to find people who still live in Arkansas,” she said. “They feel like they won’t be able to land a job here after college, so after they graduate, they move to larger cities. I want them to stay in Conway, to live full lives here, raise a family, and make a living doing something they love.”
Jessica said setting a focus on growing the city’s cultural diversity and inclusivity would play an important role in attracting and retaining talent. This need drove Jessica to be a part of Conway2035 as a member of the Public Art sector. The group of community members identified as its vision statement that by 2035, Conway public art will be “integral to the city’s reputation as an educational and cultural destination in Arkansas” and identified nine goals that will help Conway achieve that vision.
We asked Jessica about her involvement on the Public Art sector, what goals were set, and what it could mean for the future of Conway.
What was your decision to take part in strategic planning for Conway? Why did you want to be a part of it?
JESSICA: I know I’m not alone in wanting Conway to grow in its cultural diversity and inclusivity. Art has a lot to do with that, so I decided to make that my main focus when I joined the 2035 planning effort. If you think about where we visit– Memphis, Nashville, Bentonville, Dallas, those are all places that invest in art and culture and I want Conway to be on that list. I want Conway to be known for how inclusive and diverse and creative we are, but that can only happen if there’s a plan.
What were the goals you all set and what was the process?
JESSICA: We put all the ideas on the table and just brainstormed. We talked about what the experience would look like and feel like if we had more activities and events surrounding art and culture. We were all on the same page when we looked at the big picture and we are excited to invest more resources into this effort. We all want Conway to feel a certain way, now we just have to bring that vision to life!
What goal excites you the most?
JESSICA: One of the most exciting goals we discussed was an ongoing event to promote arts and culture. I’m spearheading that through a nonprofit I started, called The Creative Institute, a gap-year program in Arkansas that leads students into creative careers through hands-on learning, immersive experiences, and guidance from industry experts. We started the Conway Art Walk last October and we are thrilled to be a part of bringing that goal to life and pulling folks alongside us as we do. Our hope is to unify those who care about arts and culture in Conway and show creative people they have a place here.