Friday, July 9, 2010

Who Needs The Arts Council?

Pinellas County was a changed place in 1984 when I moved back after fifteen years in Atlanta. Soon after arriving, I cranked up the old VW again for a homecoming tour of the county.

In St. Petersburg I marveled at the Dali Museum, USF’s Bayboro Campus, and the odd inverted pyramid of the Pier. I looked forward to attending productions at American Stage Theatre and made a mental note to visit Florida Craftsmen Gallery.

Heading back to Clearwater, I drove up Beach Boulevard, happy to see that at least the Gulf Beaches were much the same as remembered. Crossing Memorial Causeway from Clearwater Beach, I noticed an expanded Coachman Park, where Clearwater Jazz Holiday was already making a name for itself. Turning right on the mainland, I followed Pierce St. up the bluff, past an old white mansion overlooking the Harbor. A sign on the front proclaimed Pinellas County Arts Council. Had the county grown enough in sophistication to warrant its own arts council?

My reluctant return to Florida would soon provide opportunities for my own changes. Out of work and running out of money, I longed for a different creative direction, one where I had only to please myself and not others. After too many dead-end ideas and the approach of insolvency, an image of the mansion on the bluff popped into my head. I decided to visit the Arts Council.

Thus began my long association and appreciation of the Pinellas County Arts Council. Over the years, I’ve come to realize the value of an organization that works closely with governmental entities, artists, and the public to support and advance the arts. Through its various programs, the Arts Council provides funding, education, business seminars, arts advocacy and public art programs. Pinellas County is a richer more vibrant cultural destination because of it.

I can say without exaggeration that my own career as an artist has benefitted from Arts Council opportunities. On my first visit in 1984 I received much needed encouragement to stop punching time clocks and let the artist out. Twenty-six years later, the Arts Council continues to offer encouragement to myself and the arts community. Who needs the Arts Council? We all do.


Sheree Rensel said...

YES we do need the Art Council. Its presence and promotion of the arts helps our entire community.
The Arts Council literally saved my life back in 1991. I had just been laid off from two college teaching jobs in Michigan. I decided I wanted a new start and sent some resumes down here. I packed up the U-haul and strapped my kid into a car seat and we were on our way. The day after I got here, Ray Smenner from the arts council hired me as an Artist-in-the-Schools. Not only did I benefit from this job, but many children got to participate in art experiences for the next two years.
I think the only way some people would truly realize the AC's worth is if it wasn't here. This community would be very different and not in a good way.
Yes. We all need the Arts Council and we should be thankful for all the wonderful things it has brought to Pinellas County!

Miriam said...

i couldn't agree with you more. I am in the UK, an funds are soon to be cut for my local arts council which will have a devastating affect on the local arts community.