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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.

Taking Stock
Strengthening Your Arts Infrastructure
Cultural Planning

  • Taking Stock: 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.

    • Artists: 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.

    • Arts Organizations: 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.

    • Traditional Artists: 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:

      Link outside of City of Seattle web  WASHINGTON STATE ARTS COMMISSION
      The Folk Arts Program helps preserve, present, and protect the traditional arts of the many diverse cultures in Washington State.

      Link outside of City of Seattle web  AMERICAN FOLKLIFE CENTER
      Great information on all aspects of documenting, presenting and preserving traditional arts. Links to a variety of folklife and anthropology sites.

  • Cultural Planning: 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 plan.
Shown: Salmon in the Trees, Salmon in the City 2001, Natalie Fobes. Photo: Kim Baker.
Salmon in the Trees, Salmon in the City 2001, Natalie Fobes.
Photo: Kim Baker.
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