Shaun Dingwerth, Executive Director of the Richmond Art Museum recently spoke at the Chamber’s State of the Community event on the arts. It was so good, we asked to reprint his thoughts as we discuss another of our focus areas (Arts and Culture) this month. He shares:

Shaun Dingwerth; photo provided

Why Art Matters

  • Communities gain value through art – cultural, social, and economic value.
  • The arts are a fundamental component of a healthy community.
  • Art is a distinguished part of our public history and our evolving culture.
  • It reflects and reveals our society, adds meaning to our cities and uniqueness to our communities.
  • Art provides an intersection between past, present and future, between disciplines and between ideas. 
  • American cities and towns aspire to be places where people want to live and want to visit – having a particular community identity, especially in terms of what our towns look like, is becoming even more important in a world where everyplace tends to looks like everyplace else.
  • Places with strong art expressions break the trend of blandness and sameness, and give communities a stronger sense of place and identity.
  • Absent art, we would be absent our human identities.

(parts of this section were adapted from American For the Arts; Public Art Network Council)

Artists contribute to Cultural Value

Art brings artists and their creative vision into the civic decision-making process.

In addition to the aesthetic benefits, artists can make valuable contributions when they are included in the mix of planners, engineers, designers, elected officials, and community stakeholder’s wo are involved in planning public spaces and amenities. 

Consider the new Starr District crosswalk.

Artists bring their own creative skill set to those conversations, which can also inspire creativity in others, ideally bringing the means of decisions and problem-solving to a more responsive and imaginative result.

Artists can be social and civic leaders, advocating through art for alternative perspectives that can challenge assumptions, beliefs and community values.

Placemaking and Art

Art is a reflection of place and time. It acts as a place marker in all human settlements.

Art activates the imagination and encourages people to pay attention and perceive more deeply in the environment they occupy.

The arts stimulate learning and thought about art and society, about our interconnected lives and about the social sphere as a whole.

Art can lead the viewer toward self-reflection and awareness.

Pandemic’s Impact on the Arts

Most all arts venues were shuttered during the pandemic, some for more extended periods. In particular, the performing arts have had a more difficult time. Large gatherings were not possible.

Local arts organizations utilized multiple tools to survive including the CARES Act through Payroll Protection Program, Emergency Arts Relief from the Indiana Arts Commission and the Indiana Destination Grants.

These funds were invaluable to our survival. 

There was tremendous response to the Wayne County Challenge Match by the community. Many arts groups had their largest contribution totals last year in response to the pandemic.

Our arts groups also responded by innovative responses including virtual tours, outdoor concerts, open air events and additional social media content.

Most arts groups were unable to host their annual fundraisers, yet many of our business sponsors continued their generous support by contributing without the arts groups hosting their events.

The arts groups met virtually to discuss COVID protocols and were in contact with local health officials to present a united front in how we presented our programs to the greater Richmond community.

Importance of Supporting the Arts

When you think of the most culturally diverse and renowned cities, they all have at least one thing in common: art.

Research shows that cities that emphasize art have more civic and social engagement, better child welfare and even lower poverty rates.

Arts organizations stimulate business and economic growth in a community.

One of the most extraordinary things about art is its capability of turning any region into a choice tourism destination. This is due in part to arts wide appeal. 

Art inspires young minds and develops critical thinking skills. For art to remain a significant part of our society, we must pass it along to the younger generations.

By inspiring and encouraging children to embrace their individual creativity, we give the resources they need to succeed in life.

Wayne County is unique in our art offerings especially for a community of our size. It is one of the top three positive comments made about our community and it drives tourism and economic development.

Your contributions are what allow us to carry out our mission of stimulating awareness and appreciation of the arts.

Ultimately, we rely heavily on individual support and every contribution no matter the size makes a difference.

Consider supporting your local arts organizations this year and beyond.

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