Arts Plan for All: The Creative Life

Sustainable Raleigh Spotlight Feature

News posted May 16, 2016 - 6:00 am
Raleigh Arts Plan Participation

What does success look like for Raleigh’s cultural future?

“Raleigh is a community connected through arts and culture, where every person is empowered to lead the creative life they envision.”

More than 4,000 people helped shape the community’s collective vision for the coming decade, participating in myriad ways during the Raleigh Arts Plan 2016: The Creative Life planning process. This vision, highly inclusive, distinguishes Raleigh from nearly all other cities; it is rare for a community to focus so directly on the creative interests of all citizens. It also suggests that the overarching purpose of the City of Raleigh is to help assure a fulfilled life for each resident, and that prioritizing the public value of arts and culture helps engage more people creatively while continuing the evolution of an authentic identity for Raleigh.

The arts are undeniably important. Numerous regional and national studies quantify the economic impact of the arts industry on North Carolina and the Triangle:

  • Creative industries are responsible for almost 334,000 full time, part time, and sole proprietor jobs, which represents 6 percent of North Carolina’s overall workforce
  • More than $13 billion in wages, salaries and benefits are created by NC creative industry jobs
  • NC creative industries produce nearly $20 billion in revenues and more than $8 billion in exports
  • Audiences at nonprofit arts and culture programs spend an average of $23.37 per person in the community beyond the cost of the event
  • Nationally, for every 100 jobs created from new demand for the arts, 62 additional jobs are also created

Whether citizens fully appreciate these impacts or not, opportunities to enjoy the arts and culture are widely appreciated, and the City staff wanted to ensure that numerous voices from around the community were heard to shape the plan.

A 34-member steering committee supported the planning process. More than 2,500 citizens filled out a mailed or online survey, and 528 respondents answered “intercept” surveys conducted in person at festivals and community events.

Perhaps most striking about the process was the Community Conversations guide, “a ‘meeting in a box’, to reach people who may not traditionally participate in a City visioning process,” said Cassie Schumacher-Georgopoulos, Senior Planner in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. “We encouraged groups such as book clubs and office teams to host their own conversations. Seven standard questions captured the ‘now’, hopes for the future and ‘what could be better’ ideas from 75 of these sessions, many of them hosted in areas with historically low City participation rates.”

The result was a plan focused “more about individual and community participation in the arts and less about the next mega-structure,” Schumacher-Georgopoulos said. “People wanted opportunities in their own neighborhoods, maybe supporting that neighbor who plays guitar or teaches watercolors, as well as smaller rehearsal spaces for the many agencies who put on performances.”

Another common theme was the strong desire for more public art, to “grow a public arts program with results such as the community-initiated crosswalks in Glenwood South,” she said.

Accessibility is a priority as well. The City Council prioritized the creation of a Universal Arts Access Program with the intention that Raleigh become a national model for inclusion of people with disabilities in the arts. The outgrowth of the yearlong Learning Community of 11 arts and cultural organizations culminated in May's Universal Access and the Arts Series of workshops, presentations and exhibits.

To ensure accessibility for all, the Raleigh Arts Plan is available in large print; the colors coding each section work even for those who are color blind; and the team is now working to produce a Braille version.

Next steps are critical to keep the positive momentum going, and include continued advocacy and developing the Arts Commission’s FY17 budget. Action items under consideration are continuing community outreach and offering arts programs on site in varying locations.

Another creative idea: “people will be able to check out a ‘book bag’ of supplies from Pullen and Sertoma Art Centers,” Schumacher-Georgopoulos explained. “Art doesn’t need to happen inside. This will allow them to take it out to the park, create, and then bring it back.”

Creating a public art master plan is also proposed for the FY17 budget. The City’s construction fund budgets .5% for each applicable project toward public art, but that only applies to City-funded projects. The master plan will address opportunities for the private sector as well.

“It’s important to note that the conversations we had during the arts planning process, building those relationships, have already paid off,” Schumacher-Georgopoulos said.

Developers are visibly embracing the arts. Kane Realty Corporation’s new Bank of America Tower on the corner of Six Forks Road and Lassiter Mill Road in North Hills features a rectangular changeable “mural” at its base, providing visual entertainment for the thousands of drivers who pass by each day. Another recent example is Aloft Raleigh, highlighting the center stairwell of its hotel on Hillsborough Street with a significant public art installation, a metal sculpture symbolizing the sound waves of the NC State Memorial Bell Tower as it rings.

Take a look at the arts plan, and watch for a community celebration next spring to celebrate where Raleigh’s been and where we’re headed. It’s definitely art, for all.

This Sustainable Raleigh Spotlight is one in a series of City of Raleigh sustainability stories.

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