by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
During the first regional Arts Summit, a collaboration with the Oregon Arts Commission and the Arts & Culture Alliance, a prominent national arts leader and advocate, Doug Borwick, provided the keynote address with an important theme: community engagement is key to the survival of the arts.
Citing a precarious public trust in arts organizations across the country, he noted that Central Oregon is already ahead of the curve since we had voted in a very unique piece of legislation last year that created a public fund for cultural tourism. This, however, would not be enough to keep the public trust alive, arts organizations must matter by mattering, or in other words, need to be in service to the community.
“Communities are not resources to be exploited. It is from the community that the arts develop and thrive,” Browick explained. “For the survival of arts organizations they must be valuable contributors to the community…especially for those who don’t think the arts apply to them.”
Borwick suggested to start by asking yourself, your board or your employees: How are the lives of the people in your community made better by the work that you do? Working towards a service-oriented approach can help organizations learn how to interact with the community by first understanding how they interact with your art/event/organization.
One example of how an organization can change their thinking about engagement is to avoid the term outreach. “It is well-intentioned, but it has the effect of placing the “outreacher” in the center,” Borwick said. “There is an implicit assumption, though usually not intended, that those that are out need to come in. It can have the effect of placing extra distance between the arts organization and its community.”
The take-away was clear: for the health and sustainability of the arts in a community, you must be a valuable contributor to that community. You matter by mattering.