Three members of the Arts Staff participated in the joint convention of Americans for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies held July 8-31 in New York City. Each of us represented the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts to peer groups within these national arts advocacy organizations. Martha Newman Collins, AIE Coordinator, serves on a task force convened by the National Endowment for the Arts around Arts in Education issues and also as 504/ADA coordinator concentrated on access topics. Debbie Rainey Haught, Community Arts Coordinator, was a moderator at sessions for community development coordinators from around the United States. I attended peer group meetings with other state arts agency directors and presented a program about the Cultural Facilities and Capital Resources Grant Program.
The title and theme of the convention, "PartICIPATE 2001," was reinforced by workshop sessions exploring ten characteristics that make the arts a true part of community life.
Featured speakers at the convention included Chuck D, recording artist and music producer; actor Ossie Davis; Bill Ivey, chairman of the NEA; author Kevin Phillips; and journalist Ray Suarez. All contributed their views about the integral importance of the arts in building communities and contributing to a democratic society.
As I attended the various sessions and listened to the featured speakers, I was reminded of the competition that sometimes occurs between the arts and other valuable concerns. How can we afford funds for the arts when children need better nutrition, healthcare, and education? How do the arts really contribute to economic development when more jobs would really improve communities? Even within the arts there are competitive forces. Large, established arts organizations might argue that they are better prepared to deliver higher quality arts experiences than are smaller, newer community arts groups. Is a museum or a symphony better or more important? If funds are limited, should they go to arts in the classroom or for public performances? These questions suggest that we must always choose between.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission do not have the option of choosing between-they must, by virtue of their core missions, choose for!
The Division presents culture and history in West Virginia through its several sections: Archives and History, Arts, Historic Preservation, Museum, Programs and the State Theater. The Commission approves grants to major, mid-size and smaller arts organizations; to arts-in-education, dance, theater and visual arts projects; and to individual literary, performing and visual artists.
As you read the following ten characteristics, think about your community and how you can help bring these qualities to reality and expand on successes already achieved.
Ten characteristics of an arts-integrated community
1. The arts bring
diverse people together.
2. Elected officials understand the importance of supporting the arts and do so.
3. Learning opportunities - in and out of school - for adults and young people, including youth at risk, fully integrate the arts, and educators impart the understanding, appreciation and practice of the arts.
4. Active participation in culture creates individual and community meaning.
5. Responsible corporate citizens and businesses support the arts in every way.
6. The arts are infused in the natural and built environments.
7. The arts are integral to civic dialogue and community building.
8. The arts are valued as an industry because of their contribution to the new economy, which encompasses quality of life, economic development and tourism.
9. The contributions of individual artists are valued and supported.
10. The arts flourish with new and diverse leadership.
Richard Ressmeyer, Director of Arts