Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Value of An Art Center in a Community


Building Art in a Community

As an art advocate and a person who has spent many years lobbying for arts education and community arts I can tell you the value to an area is ever reaching.
The Morean Art Center began its life as the St. Pete Arts Center. It provides exhibitions, classes, member shows, and residencies for visiting artist. It is rare to have an art center of this magnitude in a city the size of this one.

How does an art center add to the value of a community?

An art center helps to bond and build a sense of community. It offers a creative vision to an area that it would not normally have. It helps to build a creative base in the surrounding population and offers a place where creative learning can happen.

Art is expression, self expression and it can also be a community expression and identity.
New York, Chicago, Paris, Barecelona, Madrid, Florence, London, etc. are not only know for the uniqueness of place, but the art museums and galleries and architecture they contain. So ask yourself how did art begin in that community, and what made it prosper. There has to be a learning base, something that draws artistic creative people to the area and then supports them.

We are all artist

We are all artist and creative beings. Now, I hear the chorus of "not me" being said by many who are reading this, but it is true. You also are a creative being. We may express our creativity in a myriad of ways, from writing, dance, acting, sculpture, film, design, architecture, film to everyday things like creating a special room in a house, designing a structure for a business model, to coming up with the best recipe for a family dish, to building your own deck or redesigning an old antique car....there are thousands and thousands of ways we are creative, but we think creative,"not me". My 37 years in teaching children and special needs students taught me all people not only are creative, but need to express that creativity to feel whole within themselves.
This is a story about my cousin. He is retired shoe salesmen, a father , and grandfather of a shoe bunch of grandkids. He would not think of himself as creative, but one day he picked up a camera and started taking photos of family and nature around him. Then he bought a bigger camera and started taking more and more nature shots. Then he discovered photo shop and photo programs on the computer. He also loves old cars and trains. Now he takes the most beautiful photo's of birds in Arkansas, old cars at car shows, and old trains. On the most basic of arts reason for being is there any thing better than this...that someone finds value in their life and way to express it. We can look at Leonardo, Picasso, Monet and masters artists and think we all need to be like them, but I would say art can be in everyday life for everyday people. So we should offer a place to help them do that and an art center does that...if offers classes on photography, clay, watercolor, adobe photo shop, printmaking, painting, jewelry, glass, and much more. It offers children's programs and summer camp for kids. It gives a chance for everyone in a community to find a path to expression.

The Value of Art in A Community
One year during art awareness week in the schools I took down all pictures and any kind of pictorial visual on the walls of the school. You can imagine what happened, it turned into a bland, boring, blank, depressing space. And the point was obvious, with out art in our world and visual creation little would exist and our world would be worse for it. But the point had to be made, for as much as I may advocate for the arts, people would nod and agree, but when it came time to support the school budget or scheduling time for art classes their was always the battle of what is most important in the curriculum. I think after that year people thought back to that day with nothing on the walls or in their wold and reflected.
Close you eyes, and think of no art, no design, no visuals in your world, in your city...art effects everything from advertisements, to the design of cars and everyday things we use, to the shape of buildings and roads and sidewalks..someone had to design these things and create them. Now with a ever increasing visual world on the internet and social media we are more a visual society than ever before. There is more to design and create than ever before in our history.
Now how does that effect your community and why would an art center help? Vision in a community strengthens each and every member of that group. That group becomes a village, a community or city. The more you invest in the people in your area the stronger the group becomes. In the creative world I know surgeons who are artist, and mathematicians that play instruments in a symphony orchestra. I know dentist who sculpt. The act of creation builds a community and makes it stronger and provides for the need to express our souls.

Build it and they will come/Build an Art Center in Your Community

Find a space, any space, bring people together. Find a teacher, an artist, put out some paper and easels and just start. It can happen. In many communities there are grants and city funding, in some communities businesses will help if you show them how it helps the community and them. Bring in kids from the area, give them something fun, positive and constructive to do. You community and city will be richer for it. You will be richer for it. If you are not sure where to start google art centers like the Morean or others, look at how they started, how they operate. Call people, visit centers and get a couple of friends to help. That is how it all starts, with one or two people with vision and persistence.

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