Blog Posts for for artists

Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States

Posted by Michael Lange, Feb 18, 2014 1 comment

Michael Lange Michael Lange

Using cultural districts as a structure for arts and cultural activities is a central catalyst for revitalization efforts that build better communities. Many states and urban areas have setup structures, often through legislation, that promote cultural districts as a way to build vibrant communities that lead to social and economic development.

Getting to the end outcome - the arts playing a leading role in revitalization efforts - is a necessary endeavor, but setting up structures in the same way as urban areas may not be the best approach for a rural state like Wyoming.

Laramie Mural picture 3 Laramie, WY Mural

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with 575,000 people. Wyoming is better categorized as frontier or even remote. The largest populated city in Wyoming is the state capital Cheyenne, with a population just over 61,000 people. Of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000.

How can small populated states invest in the outcomes of cultural districts?

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Arts Council has joined in a strategic partnership with Wyoming Main Street which manages the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program. Located inside the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Main Street program assists Wyoming communities of various sizes and resource levels with their downtown revitalization efforts. Between fully certified and affiliate communities, Wyoming has fifteen active communities in their Main Street Program.

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Creative Excellence

Posted by Mr. John R. Killacky, Jan 07, 2014 5 comments

John R. Kilacky John R. Kilacky

 

Recently, I participated on two funding panels: the National Endowment for the Arts for theater projects and a California foundation for commissioning new music. Artistic excellence was a key criterion on both panels. Defining quality used to be easy, although taste was always a mitigating factor. Now in our multicultural society, it is more complex. No longer can we calibrate merit solely through a Euro-centric framework. Experts on my theater panel reviewed applications from ensembles with budgets in the tens of thousands to those with budgets in the tens of millions. Projects included amateurs learning to tell their own stories , alongside avant-garde works, free Shakespeare, revivals of classics, puppet tales, new scripts, site specific and culturally specific productions. Communities served included Latino, African American, LGBT, elderly, children, the incarcerated, and homeless in urban, inner city, and rural locations. Music panelists judged choral, electronic, jazz, and orchestral proposals against Balinese Gamelan and East Indian vocal projects. String quartets competed with a Tibetan music master, Ghanaian drummer, Turkish singer, and Beijing Opera performer. Projects ranged from minimalist to the operatic, traditional proscenium-based concerts to multidisciplinary extravaganzas. There were limited dollars to grant, so competition was steep in both panels. Excellence mattered, and there was no lack of artistic excellence, but quality had to be judged through multiple worldviews and experiences. Panelists came from varied aesthetics, ethnicities, generations and geographies to allow for a fair review of the proposals. Equity and parity, as well as cultural competency factored into our decision-making. Liking an artist or project was not sufficient. Listening and learning from one another’s comments were vital as we navigated beyond personal taste. Context matters, traditions are essential, and community is crucial.

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