Thursday, March 19, 2009

How Might the Arts & Cultural Community Work Better Together?

Yesterday's Arts-in-Action Day was a positive and inspiring session, focusing on a two-fold agenda - the first to help advocate for retaining arts funding, and the second, to share ideas regarding ways in which the arts and cultural community might work together better.

Just a word about the proposed state arts cuts - while it may be understandable due to the current economic climate to receive a proportionate cut in the state budget, it is not acceptable to be zeroed out, especially when other sectors are not being zeroed out. For years the arts and cultural sector has received significant cuts - 20%, 50%, and now nearly 100%, where other sectors have not experienced such dramatic cuts. While philosophically some may feel that only private dollars should fund the arts, government funding of the arts helps to leverage private support. Government support of the arts is also an investment in cultural tourism, economic development efforts, job creation and business attraction, educational support to K-12, and support to health care. In fact for every dollar invested in the arts, there is a direct return of $10 to the community through the goods and services purchased by the arts group and its audience, and an even further impact of $34 that supports local jobs generated by these purchases, all of which generate taxes for our local and state government.

While things may seem dire for the arts, we must hope for the best. In order to do that, however, now is the time that we must join together as a sector. Our efforts and actions today will be crucial for having a seat at the table now and in the future. If we don't respond as a sector, our legislators will not be aware of the importance and impact of the arts because we never told them. They need to be aware of how the arts permeate into many aspects of our lives, how the arts can play a role in envisioning our future, and how the arts can be used to attract the next generation to live and work in Michigan. The United States Conference of Mayors believes the arts to be such an important component of America's cities that they listed the arts as one of ten ways to build "Strong Cities, Strong Families, and a Strong America," in their "10 Point Plan" released in 2008.

Yesterday at our Arts-in-Action Day I was especially heartened to have so many artists and arts and cultural groups from across the region join us to learn more about the proposed cuts to state arts funding, and to also share ideas on ways we might work together better as a sector. I was really pleased to hear some of the ideas that were generated which included:

1. Cooperative and shared staffing - a bartering system that would trade staff for a few hours based on skills and expertise needed

2. Have local artists visit schools to speak about the arts and demonstrate their art form.

3. Building a festival alliance - for sharing equipment, resources and developing a blanket festival fundraising package.

In order to begin our work for building and envisioning our future together, I would like to open up this conversation here and ask for your ideas - we want to know: how do you think the arts and cultural community might work better together?

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