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Albemarle Supervisors endorse cultural plan for region
Sarah Lawson and George Beller present Piedmont Council of the Arts Cultural Plan to Albemarle Board of Supervisors
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Sarah Lawson and George Beller present plan to supervisors
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by Sean Tubbs | Wednesday, January 08, 2014 at 10:53 p.m.

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has endorsed a plan intended to guide growth of the Charlottesville-area’s arts and cultural activities.

“We believe that the arts really builds community, improves education and learning opportunities, and creates a significant economic impact, and also enlivens public places and people to the area,” said Sarah Lawson, executive director of the Piedmont Council for the Arts.

The organization has served as the designated arts council for the region since 1979. In 2011, the council commissioned a study to evaluate the impacts of the arts on the local economy.

“The arts sector locally accounts for about 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs and also about $114 million in economic activity each year,” Lawson said. That includes $9.2 million in tax revenue for local and state governments.

The council has spent the last year crafting a cultural plan that lays out specific steps to build on those numbers.

“We embarked upon this cultural planning process in order to create a strategic plan in order to grow specific goals and areas within the arts sector,” Lawson said.

The plan has been endorsed by 45 nonprofit groups and is the result of interviews with many stakeholders including artists, businesses, and  government officials.

“There are over 1,000 individuals in the city and county who contributed to the development of this plan,” said George Beller, president of the council’s board of directors.

One issue that came up through the survey process is that not everyone feels the arts community is accessible.

“Some of the main issues that people face are parking, cost of admission, not knowing about events that are going on, and so one of the major goals of the plan became making sure that there is access for everyone,” Lawson said.

To address the parking issue, the plan calls upon better promotion of transit options including the free trolley that runs between the University of Virginia and the Downtown Mall.

Other goals include increasing arts education and promoting Charlottesville as a destination for cultural activities.

The plan tries to encourage collaboration between different organizations to challenge them to provide more programming. For instance, the Virginia Festival of the Book is being encouraged to expand its activities year-round to engage younger readers.

While short on specifics, the plan makes the case that local government and other stakeholders should work to provide spaces for artists to live, work, and create.

“The City, County, developers, and business development and housing advocates should explore opportunities to connect artists to existing affordable housing and underused real estate to create new creative spaces as part of arts districts and neighborhood development,” reads a section of the plan.

The plan also calls for the restoration of a program called “Percent for Art” that set aside a percentage of the capital improvement budget for art projects. The program was discontinued after 2005.

Another idea is to encourage performances in city and county parks. Yet another is the possibility of including representatives from the arts community in area planning discussions.

Some supervisors wanted to know more about what it meant for them to “endorse” the plan, particularly in relation to financial commitments.

“The plan really has no financial recommendations at this time,” Beller said. “That is a separate discussion we are having with the city and the county in trying to identify sources of funding for various projects.”

The council does hope to begin a discussion with the city and county where it plays a more prominent role in making grants to cultural organizations. Currently, the joint Agency Budget Review Team determines which organizations receive city and county funding.

Charlottesville City Council endorsed the plan in December.

The plan’s public launch is slated for Monday at 5 p.m. in the Paramount Theater. The plan is available at www.charlottesvillearts.org/createcville.
 

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