Leann Porrello Pushes Art Awareness as a Cultural Arts Specialist
When Leann Porrello moved to Jefferson City in 2012, she was surprised by the lack of public art in the capital.
Having lived in several major cities across the country, she understood the importance of having art easily accessible to the community. This moment sparked her desire to encourage and install more public art in the Mid-Missouri area.
Porrello is the Cultural Arts Specialist at the Jefferson City Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. Every day is slightly different from Porrello as she oversees all of the city’s cultural arts events – like JCMO Porchfest, Yarn Bombing Day and JCMO Art Around Town. She also implements outreach programs and educates the public on resources – such as organizing art camps, installing sculptures, and encouraging public murals.
There was no practical guide when Porrello entered the position of cultural arts specialist four years ago since she was the first to hold this position. Fast forward to today, his position grew and led to the creation of an Arts Outreach Division within the Parks Department.
Porrello said his and the division’s goal is to be an “umbrella for community arts.”
“Art awareness goes from something like a hobby to a mental health release to earning money to beautify our city,” she said. “So art really plays a role in every person’s life. They just don’t realize it until we give them those resources to enhance their artistic journey and get them more excited about the possibilities that they can do.”
Since taking on this role, Porrello has helped install more sculptures in the community through a sculpture rental program. Going forward, she wants to complete a series of sculptures at Community Park, 725 Marshall St., where seven sculptures will be on display.
Porrello also wants to encourage more public murals. Earlier this month, the Jefferson City Council sent proposed amendments to the murals section of the city code to the City of Jefferson Public Works and Planning Committee for consideration. Porrello said she hopes these amended guidelines, if passed, will make it easier for residents, businesses and organizations to display murals.
“If we make it easier for people to ask for public art, maybe we’ll get more of it,” she said, adding that doesn’t mean murals and graffiti will spread to Jefferson City if the City Council approves the amendments.
If the Parks Department can pioneer public art in Jefferson City, Porrello said, it will encourage businesses, organizations and residents to invest in community art. She added that public art can alleviate mental health issues, boost tourism and encourage customers to visit or recommend businesses.
“We always believe that the biggest part of raising awareness about art is making it accessible to everyone, at all ages, and really bringing art to people who may never have had it. opportunity or who don’t think they can do it, but really anyone can do it,” she says.
Porrello served as executive director of the local Capital Arts Association for several years before taking on a full-time position with the parks department. In her former role, she oversaw several art exhibits, created art classes, volunteered at community events, and interacted with local artists.
Having worked in the nonprofit world and being an artist herself, Porrello has a unique perspective. She understands the funding challenges nonprofits and small arts businesses face, as well as the community support local artists need to thrive. These experiences helped her stay humble and appreciate the support of the community in her new role, Porrello said. It also encourages her to share the city’s resources with these artistic entities, she added.
“I really feel like I can help these businesses and encourage public art, but we wouldn’t have art without the artists, so they will always hold a special place in my heart,” he said. she declared. “It really encourages me to do my job even better because so many times artists give of their time and services, and I’m here to tell them they’re worth more than that, and we can’t wait to have their art in our community because it will make us better.
Those interested in learning where public art is in Jefferson City and how they can contribute to community art can visit JCMOarts.com.