Cultural Life Task Force to spend the rest of the year identifying sources of money for area arts and cultural offerings

htrenda@charlotteobserver.comNovember 11, 2013 

  • Learn more To learn more about the Cultural Life Task Force: bit.ly/18suG3b. To view all the Cultural Life Task Force’s key findings: bit.ly/16W9Nf0.

After learning how other cities across the country have handled similar funding challenges, members of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Cultural Life Task Force will spend the remainder of 2013 working to identify sustainable sources of money for area arts and cultural offerings.

Since forming in June, the 22-member task force has met at least monthly to hear from national organizations such as Americans for the Arts, as well as a number of individuals from Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Colorado and California about the funding models used elsewhere to support arts and culture.

The goal is to have 10 to 20 recommendations ready to present to stakeholders such as the Arts & Science Council, county commission and city council by early 2014, task force co-chair Valecia McDowell said.

Last week, members of the task force summarized for county commissioners what they’ve learned so far. Among the key findings was information about how the ASC has counted on the public/private partnership model to help fund its 24 cultural partners and smaller organizations for nearly 40 years, McDowell said.

The decreased support the ASC is receiving is attributed in part to the recession and changes in workplace giving campaigns, McDowell said, which directly impacts the day-to-day operations of groups the ASC helps fund.

“When we see arts organizations lacking in funding, the direct impacts are most dramatic with respect to those in our community that don’t have ample resources to take advantage of these facilities,” she said, noting that free programming and free admission days are by default among the first to be cut.

“That’s happening now and will continue to happen if we can’t find a sustainable model.”

Through the ASC’s Cultural Vision Plan, residents said they want more access to arts and culture within their own communities and neighborhoods, among other things, McDowell said. “People have the perception ... that the arts community is centralized on Museum Mile (in uptown Charlotte),” she said.

“Our charge is to figure out how to build a sustainable funding model that not just keeps us at the ‘maintenance’ level, but helps marry those stated desires of the broader community.”

During the task force’s most recent meeting on Nov. 7, members broke into three work groups, McDowell said. One group is examining ideas relating to capacity building for individual or cultural partners and organizations; the second is looking into workplace giving and possible alterations to that model and the third group is considering public funding and what, if any, recommendations or changes could be made there.

Task force co-chair Pat Riley said it’s unlikely that just one change or single recommendation will provide a comprehensive solution. While it was helpful to learn how other cities and organizations have worked to secure funding for their own cultural sectors, he said, “No city has all the answers, because no city is perfect.”

“We’re telling everyone, ‘Bring your best ideas.’ We’ve got to try to distill them down to a good plan.”

The remainder of the task force’s meetings are closed to the public. The task force will meet again Nov. 18.

Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda

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