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Utah Business

The Nine Rails Art District in Ogden is the city’s first neighborhood haven for purveyors of art.

Ogden city is building a creative mecca for artists

For the last seven years, the city of Ogden has been working on a plan to transform the areas between 24th and 26th street into a haven where artists and creatives can connect and make a living while engaging with the greater community. Known as the “Nine Rails Creative District,” this small neighborhood in Ogden is rebranding the city as we know it. 

“For a long time, Ogden had kind of rebuilt itself as an outdoor recreation Mecca, and that’s something that really supported the revitalization of Ogden and attracted a lot of people to Ogden,” explains Sara Meess, division manager of Ogden City Business Development. “But for other people, it may be more important to have a vibrant arts and culture scene they can be involved with. Making sure that our community is well rounded in that way can help attract people to live and work in our community, and to help people want to stay in our community.”

In addition to making the community more vibrant, one of the primary goals of the Nine Rails project is to make it possible for Ogden artists and creatives to build a successful career without leaving the community.

“When we have students who are graduating from Weber State with art degrees or degrees in a creative field, we’d love for them to be able to stay in Ogden and build their careers or build their business and not feel like they need to go somewhere else to have those opportunities,” says Meess. 

And so far, it’s been working. Since the adoption of the Nine Rails Creative District master plan in 2018, a dilapidated hotel has been transformed into the innovative Dumke Arts plaza, the city has funded numerous public art projects, and there are many more initiatives still to be completed. 

Ogden Contemporary Arts (OCA), a city-sponsored organization located in the Nine Rails Creative District was heavily involved in bringing the Dumke Art Plaza to life by raising the $1 million in funding needed to make it happen. The latest completed project in the Nine Rails District, the Dumke Plaza provides a space for showcasing and enjoying art. 

OCA’s executive director, Venessa Castagnoli, was interviewed on the Nine Rails Arts Podcast on why their development was important to the Ogden arts community. “In every industry, it’s about who you know and who you surround yourself with. You can be a really great artist, but if you just sit in your basement and you don’t go out, and you don’t go see shows and start up conversations with other artists and curators, no one is ever going to see your work.”

And this is exactly why the art district in Ogden was created in the first place—to expose more people to local artists and artisans, and to allow those artists to find work doing what they love with a community of like-minded individuals. 

“It’s been pretty amazing to see how tight-knit our community of artists and makers is,” says Meess. “I think a lot of that has happened organically thanks to the efforts of the artists and creatives we have working here in Ogden. They do an incredible job of supporting each other and lifting each other up.”

That tight-knit artistic community is exactly why Meess thinks the project has been so successful. Meess believes that despite the city initiatives that have gone into building the District, the real energy behind the growth comes from the local artists. 

“What’s going on in Nine Rails has been driven by people that are investing in building new art spaces in the community or are hosting community-wide events or are creating new opportunities for artists to showcase and sell their work,” Meess says. “So a huge part of it is what the artists themselves and art service stations here in Ogden are doing to build up that arts and culture scene.”

In addition to the networking opportunities that exist in a neighborhood full of artists, Ogden city has financial support available for entrepreneurial artists looking to contribute their creativity to the community. 

“We have art grants that can help artists take on projects or provide support to their organizations,” says Meess. “We also have business loan programs that we can make available to really any business, including those that are creative businesses.”

And while the creation of the arts district in Ogden is helping artists make a living, it’s meant to benefit the entire community, not just artists. The city hopes the art scene will be a popular feature for community members, making it easier to attract and keep smart people in the area. 

According to Meess, “For businesses that may be in a completely different industry, their efforts to attract and retain talent really benefit from being located near communities that have vibrant art and culture scene that can help inform where people want to live.”

 “We want to find new ways our community could engage with art. Instead of having to go to a museum or a gallery to experience art, you could encounter it as you go about your day-to-day life.”

And fortunately, there are dozens more projects for those living in the development to look forward to, says Meess.  

“We’d love to have this be a place that people come and visit when they come to Ogden,” Meess says, “We want them to see what the Creative District has to offer, and we want to make sure that artists and other creatives have the resources that they need to flourish and be successful here.”