Karen Abowd: The gift of arts and culture

Editor’s note: The Nevada Appeal presented the Carson City Board of Supervisors, the mayor and city manager an opportunity for a column. Next week City Manager Nick Marano will be featued.

Privileged to have served on the Carson City Cultural Commission (CCCC) since its inception in 2008, there have been many attempts towards an Arts and Culture Master Plan for Carson City. With the Nevada Arts Council grant-funded assistance of Kendall Hardin of the Idea Factory/Las Vegas, I’m excited to share the plan is being presented to the Board of Supervisors (BOS) on Dec. 17. As Antoine de St. Exupery, author of “The Little Prince,” once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” The goal is simply to improve the quality of life in Carson City through the growth of arts and culture in our community.

As background, in 2002 a steering committee made up of many past and current Carson City Arts and Culture Coalition (CCACC) members, city officials and business owners produced the “Creative Capital” arts assessment, which provided background for the Strategic Plan composed by the CCCC in 2011 along with a draft for a Public Art ordinance in 2013-2014 to fund the arts at a local level, not yet Board of Supervisors approved.

During its seven years, the commission transitioned from being under Redevelopment to Planning to Parks and Recreation and mourned the passing of two active arts commissioners, Jeffrey Scott and Eugene Paslov. With the commission members feeling like they had a map without a compass, Parks and Recreation Department staff, Roger Moellendorf and Vern Krahn, spearheaded an invaluable fact-finding mission with Christine Fey, resource development and cultural affairs manager for the City of Reno. Fey is recognized as a leader and a driving force in Reno’s cultural growth and was recipient of a Governors Arts Award in 2006 for Service to the Arts. The mission, a field trip to explore Reno’s public art, sparked the energy in this group of dedicated and passionate volunteers and fueled a conversation with Carson City arts groups including the Brewery Arts Center, the CCACC and the Capital City Arts Initiative (CCAI).

Being an unfunded commission, funding was key in all discussions moving forward. Nonprofit organizations and government agencies can apply for grants, but a plan and designated arts agency/office is needed to apply for larger grants. Consistently, thriving models reviewed around the country point to the fact someone is needed to implement that Cultural Master Plan. Observing Reno’s growing arts scene attests to the success of that.

The cultural commission proposes to work through the Board of Supervisors to establish a designated agency or office for arts and culture with a contracted position to champion the Arts and Culture Master Plan with adequate funding for start-up being pursued. Establishment of the agency demonstrates the critical role the arts play in the economic vitality of Carson City and would meet the needs of the community, and foster an environment in which artists, cultural organizations and arts-related businesses can flourish. The agency’s activities would fall into four major areas: programming, services, research and grantsmanship. The contract position would, among other responsibilities, be accountable to the city for record keeping, periodic progress reports and evaluation and monitoring progress toward meeting the Arts and Culture Master Plan objectives that promote arts for all. Tools would be developed to track data to better measure the economic impact of arts and culture throughout the community.

American for the Arts research shows the arts promote true prosperity, improve academic performance, strengthen the economy, are good for local merchants, promote tourism, are an export industry, spark creativity and innovation, have social impact, improve healthcare and creates jobs. The municipal arts agency is to be the engine that drives this progress.

Implementation of the Arts and Culture Master Plan is pending final approval from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors early in the New Year followed by a separate Board of Supervisors action on the funding mechanism. Community support is vitally important to this process.

To quote a lyric from “Anything Can Happen if You Let It,” by George Stiles and Anthony Drew ,“If you reach for the heavens, you get the stars rolled in.” The opportunity to expand our universe in arts and culture is a gift to the quality of life for our community. Imagine the possibilities!

Karen Abowd is Ward 1 Supervisor, she can be reached at KAbowd@carson.org or at 775-232-8626.


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