Consider Jamestown Without The Arts Center?

I came to work this morning to hear that the City of Jamestown has once again reduced their budget allocation to The Arts Center. It was 10K which was reduced to 5K in 2011, for 2013 the allocation will now be $2500.  This is especially disturbing to me (and hopefully to all of the Arts Center’s 621 members and 316 Facebook friends) since the community’s residents and businesses made significant contributions to make the Arts Center’s facility become a reality. The city’s constituents recognize the importance of the arts and I think the city should bolster this conviction.

“In my own philanthropy and business endeavors, I have seen the critical role that the arts play in stimulating creativity and in developing vital communities….the arts have a crucial impact on our economy and are an important catalyst for learning, discovery, and achievement in our country.”
–Paul G. Allen, Co-Founder, Microsoft

What would Jamestown be like without The Arts Center? Where would you take your elementary aged children and grandchildren to learn creative skills, learn about different art forms and famous artists? Where would you go to see your friends and family act in a local production or sing on stage? Wouldn’t area youth be at a disadvantage if the Arts Center didn’t bring artists into area schools? Where would you go to see traditional artists from all over the world in area parks? Or go to make art in area parks? Where could you go in Jamestown to see and purchase nationally and internationally recognized artists work? Where would you go to meet artists and see them at work? My point–I think we take The Arts Center for granted. If it were gone tomorrow, it would leave a serious void.  Everyone from the outside who visits is jealous of Jamestown’s Arts Center– it is the envy of many other similarly sized communities–they simply can’t believe it exists.

“The arts are the best insurance policy a city can take on itself.”
–Woody Dumas, former Mayor of Baton Rouge
“Politicians don’t bring people together.  Artists do.”
–Richard Daley, Former Mayor of Chicago

We all recognize that city budgets are tight, infrastructure needs and keeping good employees and healthcare benefits are paramount. This is a given. Like everyone else I like to see a beautiful city outfitted with baskets of flowers and fluttering banners. The Arts Center, a “community” institution that provides so many essential educational skills to our youth and cultural enrichment opportunities to our residents should have the same/increased respect from the people elected to provide the best for our community.

The Arts Center is a non-profit business and it relies on donations, memberships, grants and allocations.  It has been in existence for almost 50 years. The City of Jamestown’s allocation is a small part of the organization’s revenue stream–but every part is important. Showing other funders evidence of local support is very critical to securing other funding.

Clearly its time to have more dialog on the subject of “why the Arts are a good public sector investment.”  At the August 28th meeting of Jamestown City Council’s Finance and Legal Committee there was little discussion regarding the funding decision. Clearly the Arts Center needs an advocacy group that extends beyond the staff–folks with passion for the arts that can speak on our behalf.  All I can think is that we (Arts Center staff and Board) haven’t done enough to show our city leaders the importance of the Arts and The Arts Center.

Thankfully, over the next 2 years, The Arts Center will be involved in a program called ArtsLab.  The Arts Center is one of 15 arts organizations selected for this intensive program to strengthen the impact of arts organizations in urban and rural communities through leadership and strategy development. You can bet this process is going ramp up our ability to make our case to community leaders–its just sad that the case has to be made.

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies is a wealth of information on why government should support the arts. The ARTS offer a distinctive blend of benefits for communities including:

ECONOMIC DRIVERS: The arts create jobs and produce tax revenue. A strong arts sector is an economic asset that stimulates business activity, attracts tourism revenue, retains a high quality work force and stabilizes property values. The arts have been shown to be a successful and sustainable strategy for revitalizing rural areas, inner cities and populations struggling with poverty.

EDUCATIONAL ASSETS: The arts foster young imaginations and facilitate children’s success in school. They provide the critical thinking, communications and innovation skills essential to a productive 21st-century work force.

CIVIC CATALYSTS: The arts create a welcoming sense of place and a desirable quality of life. The arts also support a strong democracy, engaging citizens in civic discourse, dramatizing important issues and encouraging collective problem solving.

CULTURAL LEGACIES: The arts preserve unique culture and heritage, passing a state’s precious cultural character and traditions along to future generations.


4 Responses

  1. Art

    The solution is simple. It’s only a $7500 decrease since 2010. Just increase the membership fee by $20 per person and the difference will be more than made up.

    1. Yes, that would be a simple solution, however, our membership fee is similar to all the state’s other arts organizations and keeping it affordable makes it accessible to most households/individuals.

  2. Clarice Liechty

    They would rather our tax money go to the owners of Cherry Berry and the Montana owners of Prairie Hills Apartments who were granted tax exemptions without requirements to perform.

  3. Sally

    I agree The Arts Center needs an advocacy group. Great idea. As for upping the membership fee, that’s got potential, but it is overly simplistic in that it misses the key point. The point is that our ENTIRE community benefits from Arts in Jamestown and the region. Continued community support from the entire community is a worthy goal. As a new member of The Arts Center, I was amazed to see the resources available through the Center and the ongoing programs for kids. Bravo for a job well done. Now … let’s get the word out to a broader constituency!

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