Remarks to Chatham County Board of Commissioners

My name is Gina Harrison and I currently serve as President of the Board for the Chatham Arts Council. As you consider priorities for the upcoming budget year, I want to thank you for your efforts to fully restore County support for the arts, to share a bit about the work of the Chatham Arts Council specifically, and to provide some information about why I believe it is a worthwhile investment. According the US Conference of Mayors (2008), “Governments which support the arts on average see a return on investment of more than $7 in taxes for every $1 that the government appropriates.”1

The New Chatham Arts Council

CAC-logo-stackSM_GRNAfter celebrating our 30th Anniversary, we took a year to reflect and reassess our mission, goals, and future direction. We spoke to a broad spectrum of the community. With a talented, dedicated executive director, and board representation that now includes local government, the creative community, business leaders, higher education, and Chatham County Schools, we rolled out our new identify and work scope this past November.

We nurture creative thinkers
We invest in artists | We educate kids through the arts.2

We invest in artists:

  • Administering the NC Grassroots Arts Grants (as the designated county partner to the NC Arts Council) that support performing arts organizations and nonprofits that use the arts to achieve their goals. Annually the Grassroots program invests between $15,000 and $20,000 in Chatham county.
  • Sponsoring Emerging Artist Grants.
  • Promoting Chatham arts and artists through our redesigned website featuring an updated Artist Directory and Arts Calendar, Spotlight articles, social media, weekly newsletter, and press releases. (Weflytrap’re reaching more than 1700 people online every day and we have more than 1200 e-news subscribers. Our January featured artist received more than 1,000 visits to her Facebook page and hundreds of new hits on her website at Flytrap Clothing when her feature was published.)

We educate kids through the arts:

  • Producing ClydeFEST—our annual kids’ folk art festival.
  • Piloting a new Arts-in-Education Residency Program in 2015–2016.

FestMail Vidabeth

As noted in the council’s vision for long-term impacts of this work for the future of Chatham County:

  • Solvency for artists makes it likely that artists will continue to live here. Creative communities have a higher quality of life, and communities with a higher quality of life have stronger economies. Greater awareness of the arts can keep more residents in town on the weekends—and draw visitors here, too.
  • Educating kids through the arts grows creative thinkers, and creative thinkers make strong employees, employers, and entrepreneurs for
    Chatham County.

Highlighting and promoting the work of our creative community attracts tourists and encourages our citizens to spend leisure time and dollars here as well. A vibrant creative community is part of the package that makes Chatham attractive to prospective businesses.

We know that participation in strong arts education programs is associated with increased cognitive development, reduced school dropout rates, increased test scores, higher education attainment, and greater civic participation.3


Two More Points from Americans for the Arts 

  • When we reduce their support for the arts, we are not cutting frills. Rather, we’re undercutting an industry that is a cornerstone of tourism, economic development, and the revitalization of many downtowns. When we increase support for the arts, we are generating tax revenues, jobs, and a creativity-based economy.
  • The typical attendee to a nonprofit arts event spends $27.79 per person, per event (excluding admission) on transportation, lodging, and other event-related costs. Nonlocal attendees spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($40.19 vs. $19.53). Thirty-nine percent of attendees are nonlocal. Few industries can boast this kind of event-related spending.4

Chatham—The Creative Community in the Creative State

Our updated Artist Directory includes Chatham professionals working in more than 30 creative disciplines—Authors, Photographers, Actors, Jewelers, Painters, Musicians, Folk Artists, Directors, Designers, Choreographers, Teaching Artists, Woodworkers, Producers, Poets, Screenwriters, Voiceover Artists, Fabric Artists, Editors, Stained Glass Artisans, Printers, Illustrators, Potters, Glass Blowers, Storytellers, Graphic Designers, Book Designers, Sculptors, Songwriters, Choral Conductors, Paper Makers, Web Designers, and Composers!

They are self-employed small business owners. They work in all levels of education. They exhibit, perform, and teach across the country. Some are recipients of emerging artist grants. Others are master craftsmen and performers at the zenith of distinguished careers. Galleries, restaurants, clubs, bookshops, and schools/camps/studios directly benefit from their presence.

Many Chatham students—graduating from the oldest comprehensive arts education public school program in NC are also pursing arts careers—studying dance in Seattle,WA; theatre in MN, at East Carolina, and at UNCG; graphic design in New York; opera at Appalachian; instrumental music at the UNC School of the Arts; and pursuing doctoral studies in Jazz as a Mancini Scholar in Miami.

Some artists preserve our heritage—they are our lifeline to skills, processes, music and stories of a time long past. Newcomers add the flair, creativity, and traditions of different cultures to the mix. Others are incorporating technology and striking out in exciting new directions. They are all our most valuable natural resource.

Education. Promotion. Celebration. Commemoration. 

We look forward to opportuities to work with the Board on Commissioners on future initiatives to enhance and celebrate the place that we love. Your support to increase our capacity is vital to this important work and greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Notes
1Retrieved February 27 from Americans for the Arts website: http://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/toolkits/local-arts-rapid-response-kit/local-arts-rapid-response-kit-key-industry-stakeholders

2 Chatham Arts Council http://www.ChathamArtsCouncil.org

3 The Arts Education Navigator: Facts and Figures. http://issuu.com/americans4arts/docs/afta_navigator_facts-and-figures/19?e=2915314/1587929

4Americans for the Arts: http://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/toolkits/local-arts-rapid-response-kit/local-arts-rapid-response-kit-talking-points

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Invest in the Arts on #GivingTuesday

GT_icon_arts-150x150 For #GivingTuesday, I’d like share some arts and arts education organizations I work with and/or support. I recommend these to you. They do good, important work. Their efforts improve our communities, assist our teachers and schools, and provide our students new opportunities. They need your investment—your time, your talents, your money. JMArts

Grease Cast

Cast & Crew of the 2014 SRO production of Grease.

JMArts supports arts education at Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City. Founded in 2011, their enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers have funded field trips, arts performances, headed up fundraising for their new grand piano, helped produce the annual musical, and sent dozens of kids to summer arts camps. Visit their Facebook page to learn more about their fantastic work. Send a kid to camp! If you want to be part of the effort, contact JMArts President Rose Pate.


NHSAEF

“Ensuring excellence in arts education by identifying, creating, and supporting programs that enrich learning, foster student achievement and increase community involvement.”

NHSAEF Scholars Listing

NHSAEF Scholarship Recipients

Northwood High School in Pittsboro, NC was named a 2013 Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts School of Excellence for their distinguished, comprehensive arts education program. Sister organization of JMArts, the Northwood High School Arts Education Foundation was founded in 2007 to support and promote  NorthwoodArts.  Teacher grants provide resources for the ongoing work of the department, the Carlin Camp fund supports students’ summer arts activities, and annual college scholarships recognize achievements in visual and performing arts. Since its inception, NHSAEF has presented more than $35,000 in scholarship funds. Visit NHSAEF online to learn more and to make a gift. Make a contribution and name a scholarship in someone’s honor or memory. Contact Leslie Burwell to become a much-needed volunteer.


NHSBFAA Northwood also has a new organization this year making contributions easier than ever. Visit the NHS Boosters, Friends and Alumni site. BFAAYou can arrange a single or monthly donation to support a wide array of programs. You can contribute directly to individual sports, each arts discipline as well as NHSAEF, career & technical education programs, clubs or their general fund.


Chatham Arts Council

“Nurturing Creative Thinkers”

After celebrating 30 years promoting & producing arts events in our community, the Chatham Arts Council spent the past year examining their work, their focus, their impact, and their mission. In November 2014, they introduced a new identity—new logo, new website and new focus. Settling on two focus areas, the Chatham AChatham Arts Council logorts Council will 1) Invest in artists and 2) Educate kids through the arts.  Visit their website to learn more.  View or submit your own profile for the Chatham Artists Directory. Find all the latest Chatham County arts events on the Arts Calendar—including ClydeFEST, the annual arts festival for children! Learn about the planning process for arts-in-education residencies beginning during the 2015-2016 academic year. Become a member. Join the mailing list. Volunteer. Contribute.


ArtsNC
“Uniting people and communities to strengthen and celebrate a creative North Carolina.”

Arts North Carolina, is our statewide advocacy organization for the arts and arts education. Governed by a statewide Board of Directors, ArtsNC unifies and connects North Carolina’s arts communities. ArtsNC provides advocacy training, develops a ARTS-PLATE-C_WEBlegislative agenda focusing on grants funding for the NC Arts Council and statewide arts education policy. It sponsors Arts Day, an annual two-day event with conference speakers and a legislative day for members to meet and discuss the importance of arts initiatives in their communities with their legislators. In addition to hundreds of individuals, member organizations include more than 200 arts councils, museums, educational institutions, professional organizations, theatre companies, galleries, dance companies, festivals, music ensembles, and foundations from across North Carolina. Visit ArtsNC online. Become a member. Join their mailing list. Purchase a ARTS license plate—it creates revenue to support the work of ArtsNC, it brands NC as “the creative state” and you as a strong arts supporter, and it funds the NC wildflower and visitor center accessibility programs!

Changing of the Guard

When I think about “parent involvement,” during my kids’ years in Chatham County Schools, three things come to mind as most influential.

  1. 4th Grade trip to Outer Banks—Three days traveling with 100 students, their parents and teachers! With Mattie Smith’s superb organizational skills, it was a delight to watch a teacher’s fine mix of discipline and fun. And it was the first time I got to know a group of parents I would work closely with for the next 10 years.
    ImageImage
  2. Band Boosters—Participating in a well-developed parent organization whose work was absolutely essential for the success of the program—raising serious money and putting in serious hours. Being welcomed as a team member by the community that is marching band.
    Image

    Byways, Highways & Skyways

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    NHS All-Superior Pit Crew

  3. Establishing and working with NHSAEF—Recognizing that the entire arts education program needed the kind of support Band Boosters provided the instrumental music program. Learning that a group of dedicated parents and community members lending a hand, promoting, and advocating for students, faculty, the program, the school, and the arts could have a tremendous impact on perception, recognition, funding and opportunities.

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    2010 NHSAEF Scholarship Recipients

Why Should You Get Involved?

  1. First and foremost, to support this tremendous faculty. Ten years ago Northwood was the only NC school the Kennedy Center recognized with their Creative Ticket for Excellence for its comprehensive arts education program. Today those junior faculty members have remained, and grown to lead this award-winning program. NHS is one of only about 45% of the US high schools with a theatre arts program and one of only about 12% of US high schools with a dance program.* This faculty was a stable force for our children during an era when other parts of Northwood did not have great continuity from year to year. They have modeled life-long learning—earning advanced degrees, board certification, pursuing professional development activities, developing facility on additional instruments, and auditioning for new dance companies. They and their students have earned statewide and national recognition, received grants to expand opportunities, and built a tradition of excellence to which new students aspire each year.
  2. Your efforts, your presence, your participation validates the importance of arts education studies for all  students.
  3. You maintain and increase funding and program stability by promoting NorthwoodArts to the community, the school board, the county commissioners and our state legislators.
  4. You meet super students and make life-long friendships with families who work alongside you.
  5. Your efforts provide much needed funds for annual college scholarships and teacher grants.

What Kinds of Things Does NHSAEF Do?

  1. Officers direct the business of the organization.
  2. Committee members work on projects in particular areas: Hospitality, Programs, Membership, Publicity, Fundraising.
  3. Program activities have included: Meet the Principal/Superintendent nights, Arts Integration Workshops & Art 21 Video Sessions for National Arts & Humanities Month, a student trip to Raleigh to meet with legislators on Arts Advocacy Day, PASPort Lecture/Demos with Stanley Baird, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Neenna Freelon, and Leslie Burwell.  Residencies with Dr. John Brown from Duke University.
  4. Fundraisers have included: Concerts & Auctions, Fashion shows, Dinner theatre, Zumba classes, yard sales, a holiday bazaar, a recycling collection drive, and the sale of concessions at NHS arts events.

If you’re lucky, you learn as much while your kids are in high school as they do—different lessons, but equally important. So that when graduation comes, you too will miss students, families, teachers, the rhythm of the school calendar, and truly understand that word we hear so often this time of year—bittersweet.

NHS and the Arts Ed Foundation need you. Contact arts department chair Leslie Burwell or NHSAEF Faculty Liaison Lori Major Carlin to volunteer for the coming year.

* Parsad, B., & Spiegelman, M. (9012). Arts education in public elementary and secondary schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10 (NCES 2012-014). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

Celebrating Arts in Ed in My Neighborhood

Along with many, I’ve been celebrating the first National Arts in Education Week. As with any new project, there are a lot of details and more ideas than can be accomplished in a short amount of time. But here are some of the things that have gotten checked off my list.

  1. On Monday, we published NorthwoodArts 2009–2010: Celebrating a Gala Year. This is our annual report highlighting activities and accomplishments of the NHS arts education students and faculty. This accompanies a short video slide show of highlights we completed earlier in the summer.  We presented copies to the Chatham County Superintendent and School Board on Monday evening and posted the online version on our website.
  2. NHSAEF participated in Northwood’s annual Open House. Our local mayor issued a proclamation in conjunction with the national celebration and named it also Pittsboro Arts in Education Week. We shared the proclamation, the annual report, a calendar of upcoming events, met new students & parents, signed up new members and added folks to our listserv.
  3. [I spent Wednesday night as an arts student myself along with Duke students and community members, trying to master Creole for a Haitian anthem the Duke Chapel Choir has scheduled for Sunday.]
  4. On Thursday got some pix of the great banners NHS art students created for the school. Got copies of the annual report in the mail to our representatives in the State Legislature. Participated in a webinar by Americans for the Arts on their upcoming Creative Conversations in October before our ChathamArts Board Meeting.  NHSAEF will be a part of in this exciting initiative. Along with ChathamArts and the NHS arts department, we’re hosting a Creative Conversation at Northwood High School. Our friends from EbzB Productions, Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen will lead an interactive discussion for teachers, students, artists, and community members on Arts Integration—What it is, how it works, and how it benefits students and teachers in all disciplines. In addition to being consummate  professional theatre performers, they have been trained by The Lincoln Center Institute and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to teach AIE Workshops. It’s going to be an exciting beginning to National Arts & Humanities Month.
  5. I’ve tweeted and re-tweeted, posted to Facebook, sent emails, worn my Arts Create Jobs button courtesy of Arts NC.
  6. I’m off the ballgame to see our Marching Chargers perform Amusements. Their first competition is next weekend at Pinecrest Band Fest.
  7. Marching Charger BandOh, and I’ll be collecting your recyclables (laptops, old cell phones, digital cameras, ink jet cartridges, hand held games, etc) at the game for our Arts Ed Fundraiser

In the Thick of It Thicket

Last week I was listening to a Downstage Center Podcast from the American Theatre Wing.  Susan Hilferty, Broadway costume designer for Wicked, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Spring Awakening was interviewed and talked a lot about the process she goes through. Two points I especially find interesting at the moment: 1) How much the music  influences her costume design choices (“the story is just a bunch of ideas, the music is key”) and 2) How most of the creative work is, of course, all going on concurrently and it’s not until very late in the process that things come together and you actually see what you’ve got.  For most of us, when you hear West Side Story or Wicked or Sweeny Todd, we have some immediate impressions. But for many members of the creative teams involved, most of the work takes place before they get that cohesive image they are creating. “I’m always having to  imagine all those pieces on the stage. But there’s no moment when all those pieces are together before the technical rehearsals start.”

Rehearsals for Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat

That’s certainly true for our annual local high school production.  Even though it’s a Broadway classic, Northwood’s Guys & Dolls might as well be an original creation for most of the students working on the show. New music they’ve never heard to learn, a new set to create, new light and sound design, new lines to learn, new accents to master, new students learning the whole process, new opportunities for collaboration, problem-solving, cooperating.  It is fascinating to watch the director take all these disparate strands of student activity and get them on a trajectory to (almost always) peak at the same time. [Of course there have been some past performances with wet paint on stage, but that just becomes part of the lore.] It’s really an almost year-long process for  the production team and a very intense project for those dedicated students that come back year after year.  Audiences only get to see the tip of the iceberg.  But audiences are the last variable that will make or break a show. The difference that half a house and standing room only can make in the quality of a show is mystifying and terrifying.

The company is spending twelve hour days at school now. Opening night is a week away.  This kind of project is going on at schools across the country during the spring. During the month of March alone, MTI, the licensing agency,  is listing 101 productions of Guys & Dolls.  It’s not Broadway. It’s an incredible, learning project that students never forget.  A senior told me this weekend that this was her 6th show. Like the senior three years ago talking about his last show, she’s beginning to realize she is now at that same place.

“Now I understand what he was talking about.”

“A Dream is a Wish …”

Today, Northwood High School, a part of the Chatham County, NC School System, dedicated a $4.5 million renovation/expansion. The year-long project includes new classrooms for Theatre Arts, Instrumental Music, Choral Music, Dance, Visual Arts, Wrestling, and Exceptional Children. Also included are a new lobby for the gym and an extensive upgrade to both the house and the stage of the Benjamin J. Lee Auditorium. The ceremony included Superintendent Robert Logan, Chair of the School Board Kathie Russell, Chair of the County Commissioners George Lucier, Architect Grimsley Hobbs, Principal Chris Blice, and representatives of the NHS Student Body. Attending were  commissioners, school board members, representatives from Resolute Construction, CCS administration, city government, law enforcement, ChathamArts, faculty, students and community members.

To the Chatham County Commissioners, School Board, and Administration | On the Occasion of the Northwood High School Arts Wing Dedication | The 16th of October, 2009:

I am a strong proponent of a concept called Schools as Centers of Community. Across the country, school systems have begun to maximize the use of school campuses for myriad educational, recreational, and entertainment activities. These may  include child care, elder care, clinics, libraries, night school, conference/professional development facilities and YMCA operations.

There are two really great reasons why this makes sense. First, for many communities like ours, school facilities are their biggest investment and one of their greatest potential resources. So utilizing these physical plants for more than 35 hours a week provides a greater return on the investment.

And secondly, we know that one of the most effective ways to improve schools is to increase family and community involvement. Eric Booth, a member of the faculty at the  Juilliard School and nationally recognized consultant for the arts, calls the arts a “catalyst for engagement.” No other activity is as effective for bringing families and community into a school as the arts.

So today I am thrilled because of course, we must provide the very best facilities we can for the important work of students and educators. But I am equally excited because your efforts and dedication and vision offer an amazing opportunity for our entire community, now and in a future we have yet to see—but can dream and hope and work for.

I salute you all!

Bravo!

In the Neighborhood

This week’s ArtsBlog from Americans for the Arts is focusing on Arts Education with more than 25 arts ed experts from across the country making contributions. There are some fascinating posts with provocative ideas.  Today, Andrea Temkin’s post, What is Arts Learning Anyway? began with some information about the Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership where she works.

She says it includes the a county arts commission, school districts, community arts organizations, higher ed, teaching artists, teachers, administrators, parents and youth.

If we could create such an alliance in Chatham County, what would that look like? Can you envision an opportunity to work together, collaborate on long-range plans, pool resources, create and support innovative programs with input from a wide variety of talented community members to improve arts education opportunities for our students?

I encourage you to read the ArtsBlog posts, join the conversations, and imagine the possibilities here in Chatham.