State of fine arts to be discussed in Fayette 2011.12.14

Written by David Green.


Art leaders from three states will meet in Fayette next week to discuss the state of the arts in the age of the “new normal.”

The “new normal” is a phrase coined to describe America’s continuing economic downtown. In many areas, the fine arts have suffered from lack of funding as municipal sources run dry.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Susan Burke, executive director of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education will speak to guests at the Fayette Opera House. Following a luncheon, she will be joined in a panel discussion by Donna Collins, executive director of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, and Mike Latvis, director of public policy for ArtServe Michigan

The “arts collaborative” is designed to bring together non-profits and public school districts to discuss strategies for strengthening arts programming and education.

The key element in planning the event, said organizer Tom Spiess, came through contact with Fayette native Susan (Sly) Burke who will be visiting her parents who live near Fayette.

Burke served as director of education for the Sarasota (Fla.) County Arts Council from 2002–05 where she coordinated the Artists in Schools program. She also served on an arts education task force before joining the Florida Alliance for Arts Education.

Collins, of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, will bring a wealth of experience in arts education and advocacy organizations.

Latvis, of ArtServe Michigan, develops advocacy campaigns and public policy initiatives in support of art programs, often working with the state legislature and U.S. congressional members.

Spiess recalls a time in the past when private and public support for the arts was more vibrant. 

“This is our effort to recreate a dialogue between local organizations and schools, and to develop that upstream with public policy advocates,” Spiess said.

The guest speakers “have their finger on the pulse” of state and federal policy, Spiess said, and art educators need to hear what is happening in the states.

He wants to gather the perspective of policy makers, create opportunities to re-connect with them, and try to influence public policy.

“We need to maintain standards for the arts in state curriculum guidelines,” Spiess said, adding that it’s well known how the creative process enhances education overall.

Some relationships exist between school and local organizations—such as the collaboration between Morenci schools and Stair Public Library—and Spiess wants policy-makers to become aware of them and show support.

Spiess is inviting school representatives from districts along the border of Ohio and Michigan, knowing that organizations can help schools meet state objectives. As an example, the Fayette Arts Council recently brought a speaker from the Kelsey Museum of Archeology at the University of Michigan, at low cost. An after-school program is in the works.

The turn-out might be small for conference next week, but what’s important, Spiess said, is to have people “who are bright and articulate and not whine about the condition but rather simply state the realities of what we face.”

Spiess says it’s essential to look at the role that small communities play in the creative process. There are creative people in every small community, he said, and policy-makers need to be reminded of that.

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