Skip Navigation

Winter 2002-03

Mullens mural painter

Accessible recreation guide

Duncan Noble

From the director

Following the dream

Meredith Sue Willis

New arts curriculum

Marion Meadows

Filmmakers Guild

Disabilities guidance

Getting the gig

Alison Helm

Cultural Facilities grant awards

Getting into print

Book Review

From the director

Resources and outcomes

En-ter-prise (ente(r)-priz) n. 1. An undertaking, esp. one of some scope, complication and risk. 2. A business organization. 3. Industrious and systematic activity. 4. Readiness to venture; initiative. [ME < Ofr. Entreprise < entreprendre, to undertake: entre-, between (< Lat. Inter-) + prendre, to take < Lat. Prendere.]–enter-priser n.

No artist, arts organization board member, artist educator, arts administrator or state arts agency Commission member would challenge the notion that the arts are an enterprise.

Particularly in times of economic austerity, arts advocates often can be heard saying, “The arts are not part of the problem; rather, they are part of the solution.” However, because the arts function within economic realities, business cycles and social forces that impinge upon prosperous times cannot be ignored.

Among many privileges of a state arts agency director is the opportunity to listen to the great concern on the part of individuals and communities across our state for access to quality arts experiences and participation. West Virginia is rich in artistic and cultural resources. As with any resource, the arts must be nurtured, sometimes even protected.

When arts stakeholders examine the available resources to plan for growth or contend with tighter times, they always benefit by looking for current successes and practices that have proven positive over time.

Members of the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and the Arts staff of the Division of Culture and History visited more than 25 assemblies of artists, arts advocates, university professors, parents and students during public input meetings last winter and spring. They found some “best practices” in evidence in every locale. We found that the arts flourish when there is a critical mass of:

• artists with local residence
• community arts advocates willing to organize around the arts mission
• teachers, principals, and county superintendents who value the arts as basic to curriculum; and
• a level of economic capacity sufficient to provide cash and in-kind support to leverage other resources from foundation and public sources.

Not all West Virginia cities, towns and rural areas are equally endowed with these ingredients. In some places, artists feel isolated from their communities. In others, community groups search in vain for artists. In still other places, teachers do not have the necessary back-up to foster their enthusiasm for the arts.

Any student of public funding of the arts at the national level can find a developmental path taken by the National Endowment for the Arts: First, the NEA focused on artistic quality, with direct support for individual artists of regional and national reputation and achievement. Second, the agency concentrated on the management capacity of arts organizations through training in planning, budgeting, governance, marketing and fund raising. Finally and more recently, the NEA has highlighted the importance of wide access to the arts in all 435 congressional districts, Washington, DC and the territories.

As a member of the board of directors of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and through my service on the nominating committee of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, I have recognized trends for success of the arts in other states. States where the arts have seen substantial growth in public funding during periods of economic expansion, as well as some protection from erosion of funding during periods of economic downturns, demonstrate the following characteristics:

• Inclusion of diverse cultural traditions;
• Recognition of the arts as an economic generator;
• Common cause between small and large arts organizations;
• Leadership in the legislative and executive branches of government;
• Arts participation beyond the audience level for all age levels and abilities;
• Strong, grassroots arts advocacy in collaboration with history, humanities and tourism;
• A central position and value of practicing artists in the many disciplines and media.

While West Virginia can claim some of these characteristics, we have room for improvement.

The development of the State Arts Plan will continue, with additional work by the Arts staff and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts as well as additional groups and individuals in public input gatherings.

All advocates for the arts should be circumspect when planning for programs and organizational budgets in the coming period. Although no final decisions have been made, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, in order to abide by the governor’s instructions to reduce every agency budget by 10% for Fiscal Year 2004, may require reductions in funds for arts grants. Nationally, some states have seen reductions in arts funding at levels ranging from 20 percent to over 40 percent.

Some would say that this is also the nature of “enterprise.” Most people active in the arts find the opportunities for expression, new discoveries and vibrant engagement with the world through literature, dance, music, theater and the visual arts reasons to press ahead with optimism. We will.

Richard Ressmeyer, Director of Arts