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Placemaking
Arts leaders adopt cultural plan
George Beller and Rob Vaughan
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George Beller, Piedmont Council for the Arts, and Rob Vaughan, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
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Brian Wheeler | Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 7:42 a.m.

Local arts leaders have unanimously adopted a new cultural plan for the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.

After more than a year of work, the plan details ambitious goals and increased expectations for new funding of the arts. The plan also cements an expanded leadership role for the Piedmont Council for the Arts, which will lead the plan’s implementation.

“We feel great,” said Sarah Lawson, PCA’s executive director. “It was an important step in the process towards getting the city and county to adopt the plan and hopefully get them to increase their support for the arts community.”

“In January there will be an exhibit in CitySpace and we will make printed copies of the plan available to the public,” Lawson added. “A series of events will allow the public to engage in the plan and learn what it means for them.”

A number of members of the almost 30-person steering committee said it was important to get both the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to incorporate the arts into their Comprehensive Plans and budgets.

They noted that the only significant change in the cultural plan since their last meeting in May was to add a call for increased local government funding.

The plan now says there should be “increased local public-sector funding commensurate with the impact of the cultural sector and the need to help sustain nonprofit cultural organizations that advance the goals of this cultural plan.”

Paul Beyer, a local developer and organizer of the Tom Tom Founders Festival, said more information was needed on the plan’s funding requirements.

“This is a step I support with caution, in the sense we are putting a vision out, and it’s a good vision, but we haven’t tied down specifics yet, but they are coming,” said Beyer. “The same way that this committee has iterated its way through this document, the community has to do the same.”

Matt Joslyn, Live Arts’ executive director, urged the committee to make increased funding from the county a priority.

“In just overall budget size, the city has shown a consistent investment in the arts and the county has shown a consistent non-investment in the arts,” Joslyn said. “I understand the focus on tourism … but tourism misses the smaller cultural institutions that give a community like Charlottesville its true identity.”

Craig Dreeszen, the Massachusetts-based consultant working with local leaders, said PCA was not yet ready to recommend a specific financial goal for public and private-sector investments in arts and culture. However, he said numerous financial benchmarks suggested local government’s investment alone should be between $400,000 and $700,000 a year.

“$386,000 is the city-county contribution today,” Dreeszen said. “We are in the range, but at the low end of the range.”

“My research shows there is a decided bump in total public and private funding after a cultural plan is done,” Dreeszen added. “Cultural plans do generally increase funding, but not every community has been able to sustain it.”

Joslyn challenged the committee to be both “vociferous and adamant.”

“If we don’t come out with a big number, fighting big, advocating big, then what we risk is this whole process coming out with a sigh,” Joslyn said. “If PCA just gets another $60,000, that’s not going to move the needle, it’s not going to change the conversation.”

“It makes it all the more frankly laughable when any politician says we want to be Austin when we grow up, or Ann Arbor, or Asheville,” Joslyn said. “Well, those cities have tremendous support of the arts and culture. You can’t do it without putting real investments behind it.”

Musician John D’earth co-chaired the steering committee, which will now be disbanded as PCA starts to implement the plan.

“There is faith we will go forward, and that’s a great thing,” D’earth said. “It’s a collective civic endeavor.”


Local art on display by PCA at City Space
'Compass Rose' by Kirsten Miles - carousel structure and binding
 

 

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