STRENGTHENING THE ARTS IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Arts activities and creative problem-solving can be a primary means of building
community. The first step in using the arts to build community is to strengthen
arts activities that already define your community. The following ideas can act
as a guide.
Strengthening Your Arts Infrastructure
The first step in strengthening the arts in your community is to take stock of the artists
and arts activities that are already there. Where do people gather to hear music? Where
are visual arts on display? Where do artists live and gather in your community?
Developing a "mental map" of the arts landscape in your community will allow you to build
on the value that's already there.
Strengthening Your Arts Infrastructure:
In order to nurture arts activities in your community, it is essential to take an active
role in strengthening your community's arts infrastructure. Simply stated, this means helping
to preserve and promote the gathering places, performance venues and living situations where
artists, musicians, dancers, writers and traditional artists live, work and present their work.
One early step towards strengthening the arts in your community may be to develop a
directory of artists who live there. You may want to research where artists live and work,
and develop a listing that includes artists and arts organizations' names, addresses, art
forms and where their work is presented. Another way to support artists is to promote
opportunities for artists to showcase their work: a community art walk that could include
open studios; art displays in restaurants, shops, clinics or cafes, publicly sponsored
performances or art festival in places where local artists and performers can freely
perform and display their work.
The arts can strengthen communities when arts organizations live there. Arts organizations
are community-based non-profit businesses that can provide an important uplifting element in
community life. Identify spaces for arts organizations to perform or do business and weave
these groups into local business associations and public life. This helps arts organizations
find an audience, remain healthy and contribute to community life. Communities that support
arts organizations by providing them with venues and audiences are enriched by the experience.
Artists whose skills are passed down from one generation to another can greatly enhance
the life of your community. They bring cultural diversity to community life and provide
an opportunity for learning about each other. Traditional artists may not view
themselves as "artists" or see the craft that they practice as an art form. Get to
know the places in your community where the elderly live, where ethnic and church
organizations meet, and you may uncover a wealth of traditional artists and art forms,
from story tellers to musicians, from quilters to drummers.
For further reference:
WASHINGTON STATE ARTS COMMISSION
The Folk Arts Program helps preserve, present, and protect the traditional arts of the many diverse cultures in Washington State.
AMERICAN FOLKLIFE CENTER
Great information on all aspects of documenting, presenting and preserving traditional arts. Links to a variety of folklife and anthropology sites.
Once you've identified the cultural assets in your community, you may want to develop a
cultural plan. This is a document that maps out the opportunities that exist and envisions ways
to enhance those opportunities for others to enjoy. Once you've identified the artists, arts
and cultural groups in your community, you will be able to involve them in developing a cultural
Salmon in the Trees, Salmon in the City 2001, Natalie Fobes.
Photo: Kim Baker.