Growing up in east Hot Springs, Erin Holliday hoped to one day live uptown in the storied neighborhoods of Park and Whittington avenues.
She's living her dream, residing and owning property in the Whittington area. But the realization assumed an added dimension Tuesday night after the Hot Springs Board of Directors appointed her to the District 1 seat Suzanne Davidson vacated last month. Sworn in Wednesday morning, she now represents the city's northernmost political boundary.
She brings with her the experience of seeing how policies affecting health, welfare and quality of life form at the granular level as a member of the planning commission, and how the allocation of scarce resources can be politically fraught during her time on the Community Development Advisory Committee.
The sought-after place to work and live District 1 has become was decades from taking shape when Holliday first conjured the idea of calling it home, but the future sculptor saw potential where others saw blight and degeneration.
"I grew up near Lakeside School, but my parents had rental properties on Park and Whittington," said Holliday, who'll serve through next year. "I told my mom I was going to live on Park Avenue or Whittington one day. She thought I was crazy, because at that time it was not a place people chose to migrate to.
"I loved the older houses and tree-lined streets. Now I'm grown up and live in District 1. I love living close to the woods but on the edge of downtown at the same time. Seeing the community grow has made it that much better. There are so many people living in District 1 who are driven to make it a better neighborhood and place."
Mayor Pat McCabe said the board didn't find Dennis R. Magee and Mark A. Toth, the other applicants who interviewed for the vacancy, lacking. Both would've represented the district well, he said, but Holliday's artistic sensibility intrigued the board.
The Kansas City Art Institute graduate's thought process stood out in a room of left brain thinkers who see issues from a business perspective, McCabe said.
"There's a way people who are artistic think that is different from others," he said. "That brought a different mindset to the board than perhaps what the other candidates offered. We asked them pretty much the same questions. Sometimes Erin's approach to things was a little varied and in some respects counter to mine, but I couldn't disagree with the manner in which she arrived at her thinking.
"We have a number of people on the board who think the same way. We thought it would be good to bring in someone with a different perspective, and that maybe Erin could expose us to that." The youngest board member at the start of the 2019-20 term in January will turn 64 soon, but Holliday, 40, sees issues from the vantage point of a younger demographic the city is keen to attract.
"We talk about increasing our population, specifically our population of young professionals and families," Holliday said. "I like to think I can bring some insight into that. Most people my age have a hard time finding a career path here. We don't have a broad landscape of industries.
"Classmates I talk to tell me they'd like to come home, but the career they've chosen won't allow that."
Holliday is the executive director of Emergent Arts, a nonprofit community arts center, and was awarded the Hot Springs Sister City Program's first artist residency. She spent part of last summer representing the city's arts community in Hanamaki, Japan, and returned there in the fall to install a sculpture celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Sister City Program.
Her work graces the St. Luke's Women's Center in Kansas City and the Olathe, Kan., Community Center.
Holliday will help shape the Majestic Hotel property into the inviting, economically vital space the board hopes it can become, but she doesn't want her preconceptions to foreclose any possibilities the board will consider.
"I've had a hard task of not overly daydreaming what it should be," she said. "I have to try and maintain an open mind and hear what everybody else is thinking. The project we choose definitely needs to be something that improves the quality of life for people who live here. I feel like it's a once in a lifetime opportunity."Local on 05/16/2019
Print Headline: Holliday brings artist's perspective to city board