Harvest gives MURA $89,250 for Uptown Events

June 28, 2007

By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation on Wednesday announced an $89,250 grant to fund a series of outdoor entertainment events this summer in uptown Martinsville.

The grant, to the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association, focuses on enhancing the uptown area and improving the community's quality of life, said MURA Executive Director Susan McCulloch.

"This will be a draw for tourists and ... a quality of life measurement of our area," she said.

Planning for the "Uptown Summer Fun Series" is in its early stages, but so far officials hope to hold "Lunch on the Lawn," a Wednesday event outside the old Henry County courthouse; "Tunes at Twilight," which will involve live music on Thursday evenings; a series of films shown uptown; and a "Fun Run/Bike Race" through the area.

The events should begin in late July with an outdoor lunch, McCulloch said. The only cost involved would be that of a meal, which participants will be asked to bring uptown. Music and other activities will be offered while people eat, she said.

"We want to give them a mental break from their work, if this is their work time," McCulloch said. "It's great to get away from the desk, get outside.

"I can't wait to attend them myself."

She hopes the event also will appeal to stay-at-home parents, retirees and students who are off for the summer.

"Tunes at Twilight" will complement MURA's TGIF concert series by offering live music earlier in the evening, around the time that people are getting off work. The TGIF concerts run from 7 to 10:30 p.m.; Tunes at Twilight probably will begin around 4 or 5 and wrap up by 7 or 8 p.m., McCulloch said.

Organizers are hoping to attract a variety of musical groups that will appeal to a wide range of residents, she said.

Details about the film series have not been hammered out, McCulloch said, but it too will be aimed at pulling people into the uptown area to have fun.

The fourth event, the bike/run, is designed to tie into the Healthy Community Initiative, which encourages area residents to get out and exercise.

With two of the new events events offered each month, in addition to TGIF concerts and the Uptown Farmers' Market, uptown should start to become a destination for area residents and those from out of town, said Rich Killingsworth, executive director of the Harvest Foundation.

"This is a special place, Martinsville uptown," Killingsworth said. "If people want to see it flourish and grow and be healthy, (they should) come into Martinsville uptown, experience it and do things here."

This grant for MURA, like portions of a Piedmont Arts Association grant announced Monday that will fund putting sculptures and murals uptown, is part of Harvest's effort to address the cultural interests of residents of all ages, Killingsworth said.

"We're going to celebrate this place - the city, the uptown - and really show that we're moving forward in a positive direction," he said.

One of the catalysts for the grant was a recent survey by the United Way of Martinsville/Henry County and Virginia Tech that showed that many of the area's residents are dissatisfied with entertainment offered uptown, McCulloch said.

It also falls in line with the recommendations of Kennedy Smith, a consultant who presented the results of a retail market analysis of uptown in January.

Uptown merchants will be encouraged to stay open later during the events, which also might generate business for the area, McCulloch said.

Both Killingsworth and McCulloch encouraged residents to contact them with suggestions for events or other feedback on the program.

Harvest and MURA also plan to evaluate the series to determine what people like, what they don't like and what might work better in the future, Killingsworth said.

"It's really going to help us understand what kinds of things need to be pulled together to help in the long term," he said.

Wednesday's grant is separate from Harvest's Uptown Initiative Grant, which provided $177,680 to MURA for two years. That grant will end in August, McCulloch said.

To contact McCulloch, send an e-mail to susan@martinsvilleuptown.net or call 632-5688. The Harvest Foundation can be reached at 632-3329.


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