The local conversation on art and its value in civic society is shifting.
The downward trend in national and local public arts funding has put the future of many important programs and organizations in jeopardy. As a result, community leaders are rethinking the way they talk about, create and invest in regional arts initiatives.
And philanthropy is engaged in this discussion.
As reports have shown, philanthropy is acknowledged for its role in the growth and impact of art-making and participation in the U.S. over the past 40 years. Thus, philanthropy will influence the creation of and engagement with art over the next 40 years in our communities.
Elevating the Conversation
On August 23, The San Diego Foundation hosted the first event in the series Arts = Civic Engagement.
The event, Building Community Through Art, brought philanthropists, artists and thinkers together to unveil the power and value of art in the region.
Through her questions and comments, she highlighted the many challenges artists face, as well as the opportunities San Diegans have to experience so many unique arts projects.
For example, Andrew Bracken, producer of the KPBS series “My First Day” and recent Creative Catalyst Fellow, is combining the diversity of San Diego with creative storytelling. His work explores the important first days of people who came to San Diego from elsewhere and now call it home.
Dinah Poellnitz, curator and development director at The Hill Street Country Club Art Gallery in Oceanside, emphasized the need to expand opportunities across all of San Diego. Poellnitz recalled growing up in North County San Diego without an art presence. Today she provides local artists an experimental exhibition space and art professionals opportunities to lead.
James Brown, founder of Bread & Salt Art Center in South County, also spoke about the challenges and benefits of bringing new, creative ideas to the region. He noted that financial stability and sustainable community support for artists can be two of the leading barriers that impact growth.
Investing in a Creative Economy
Art inspires us, allows us to explore differences, and expands our understanding of diverse cultures to help solve complex challenges. Art also plays a direct role in the economic vitality of communities.
According to experts, the connectivity between the arts and local economies runs deep. Research by Americans for the Arts reveals that nonprofit organizations and local initiatives, such as the Creative Catalyst Program, generate $135.2 billion in U.S. economic activity every year.
Yet the future role of art in our communities remains uncertain. Now more than ever, The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Program and other successful arts initiatives in the region are worthy of your support for the health and well-being of our communities.
What is the future of arts and civic engagement in San Diego? Share your thoughts in the comments below!