Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. presented downtown revitalization awards on July 25, 2019, recognizing revitalization excellence during the annual Missouri Main Street Conference in St. Louis.
The ceremony also honored communities, individuals, businesses, and organizations from across the state that have completed exemplary work in downtown revitalization. Competitive nominations were submitted for projects, activities, and individuals in 14 different categories that covered aspects of design, economic vitality, organization, promotion, and other efforts in downtown revitalization.
The late Kelly Poling of Chillicothe was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award.
Kelly Poling exemplified what a Main Street volunteer should be in his selfless giving of his time and talent to Main Street Chillicothe. Though he is greatly missed by all who knew him, Kelly’s incredible legacy through his art and community revitalization will live on for many years to come!
Kelly moved to Chillicothe in 1997 and opened his business Original Artworks by Kelly downtown in 1998. In 2000, Kelly lent his artistic talents to the community through work on the first mural painted in downtown Chillicothe. From this, a partnership between Kelly and Main Street Chillicothe was born leading to 24 murals painted throughout downtown over 18 years.
Each mural tells a story of Livingston County history and brings thousands of visitors a year. Kelly would give tours to busloads of people, helping to explain each mural and provide a unique perspective for his audience. Kelly was so much more than his murals though, he was truly an advocate for both the community and Main Street Chillicothe. In 2018, Kelly reached an even broader nationwide audience by leading a tour for the Main Street Now conference held in Kansas City as well as an educational session for the conference.
It is because of Kelly that the arts now plays a crucial role in Chillicothe’s economic development efforts. In 2015, the Cultural Corner Art Guild and Gallery was formed out of a need for the increasing demand of artist workspace in Chillicothe. The $750,000 rehabilitation project allowed the organization a place to serve as a hub for artists in northwest Missouri. It also anchors the Kelly Poling Arts District, a corridor in downtown Chillicothe that helps to celebrate and cultivate the arts. Kelly and his work served largely as the catalyst for these projects.
Kelly’s leadership throughout his life had a great impact on his entire community especially downtown Chillicothe. In his recent death, Kelly has left an empty place in his community that will be impossible to fill and a legacy that will be celebrated by all who come to Chillicothe and enjoy the work he did.