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
After 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. (We’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.
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
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.
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