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The arts are key to the region’s economic vibrancy, so it is imperative to keep the culture lively.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Today’s Horizon looks a little different than most Sundays as we turn over most of the section to further a discussion of one topic: sustaining the arts in our region.
The arts are not a frill, but as intrinsic to the vitality of our valleys as the mountains and forests that define Virginia’s Blue Ridge. We are blessed by both the natural wonders of place and the talents and creative wonders of our people and institutions. Artists and cultural organizations contribute value to our lives and make us more attractive to visitors and those seeking to do business here.
To keep our culture vibrant and growing takes effort.
Unfortunately, the value of art is often discounted by bargain-seekers unwilling to pay the price to support even the amenities they cherish, and underwriters, patrons and subscribers grow fatigued by the crushing demand from so many asking so often for aid.
It is with this backdrop that The Roanoke Times and Cox Business, as part of the ongoing Executive Discussion Series, last month hosted a panel, “The Role of the Arts in Economic Development.” Attendance was overwhelming, drawing more participants than any other topic during the two-year series.
After attending the forum, Roanoke Times arts columnist Mike Allen wrote: “The questions, articulated with urgency, weren’t new. How does a community sustain the arts financially over the long term, where does the funding come from, who deserves to receive it? How do you battle the perception that arts aren’t essential? Will localities in Roanoke and the New River Valley band together to promote the arts as part of their brand, and if so how?”
Those difficult questions cannot be answered over a breakfast meeting; they demand thoughtful and actionable responses. To encourage a continued discussion, we are opening up our opinion pages and issuing a continued invitation to artists and executives and patrons and taxpayers and business and community leaders and anyone who has a stake in the arts and our region — in other words, all of us.
We hope that a robust discussion will help to form the answers as to how best to sustain the arts in our region so that they enrich our culture and support economic development.
Today, readers of this section will hear from six of these stakeholders: artists Katherine Devine and Ann Glover; directors of organizations, Cyrus Pace and Bev Fiztpatrick; a former theater board member, George Anderson, and a university president, Charles Steger. Each lends a unique perspective that helps to define the role the arts play in our community, our economy and our lives and how we might begin to better support our culture.
One aspect of that discussion has already been initiated by the Roanoke Arts Commission. At city council’s prompting, an effort led by Councilman Dave Trinkle and businessman David Wine is exploring the best way to create an endowment to help sustain the arts.
The city for years has set aside 1 percent of its annual capital funds to support bricks-and-mortar projects. Roanoke taxpayers have helped to build fine institutions, but the organizations then are expected to stand on their own, and not seek operational funding. The thought now is to shift toward sustaining what was created.
But an endowment should not be the burden of city taxpayers alone. Other local governments, businesses, foundations and entities that benefit from the culture should be encouraged to support it.
And what of individuals and families? Are there better ways to solicit support without each organization hammering them with continual pleas? Would a joint membership structure work with residents? Would something like a City Pass find favor with tourists? Can technology — a swipe of a smart phone — entice supporting contributions at the point that visitors are freshly wowed by an attraction?
There are many questions and solutions yet to ponder in designing ways to sustain the region’s arts. We welcome all to contribute to the conversation.
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