Arts Council of Richmond reaching out to make changes

The Arts Council invites some local bloggers over for lunch and a chat about Richmond’s relationship with (and support of) the arts. Tell us your thoughts…

This past Friday, John Bryan, president of the Arts Council (soon to be renamed “CultureWorks”) invited some local blogger-type people over for lunch and a chat. The topic of discussion: How the Arts Council is trying to change Richmond’s relationship with (and support of) the arts.

We started the discussion by going over a summary of the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan (RichCAP), an effort lead by WolfBrown, a marketing research and consulting firm for nonprofits. They worked for over a year with a 23-person task force composed of members representing the City of Richmond and Henrico, Hanover, and Chesterfield counties, corporate funders, and visual, performing, and history cultural arts organizations. The final report was ONE HUNDRED SIXTEEN pages, but Mr. Bryan thankfully pared it down for us to six goals presented by the task force upon completion of their research:

  1. Increase the contribution of arts and culture to the economic vitality of the region.
  2. Expand cultural participation on a regional basis.
  3. Promote cultural equity and build on cultural diversity.
  4. Build a coordinated, equitable, and innovative system for creative education.
  5. Sustain the Richmond region’s artists and cultural organizations.
  6. Provide for ongoing coordination, advocacy, and dialogue on behalf of arts and culture.

I know. Good intentions, but quite vague and sweeping at this point. WolfBrown also included a series of recommendations offering the Arts Council and the Task Force somewhat less-vague steps for accomplishing these goals, all at varying levels of completion as of right now. That’s all a bit meaty and long-winded at this point, but if you’re interested in knowing more about those, leave a note in the comments and we’ll break it down for you.

The point of this get-together was basically for John Bryan to 1) see what we thought about this whole RichCAP thing and 2) try to select one issue or idea (for now) pertaining to the betterment of cultural arts in the Richmond region that the Arts Council/CultureWorks would then champion.

Obviously #1 was pretty easy for us because bloggers are known for their chattiness and opinionated natures. But #2? A mighty big task, that one. Us? Choose a cause to jump start the Art Council’s new efforts to essentially transform the culture of Richmond? Yikes. But try we did.

We tossed around a few ideas, including challenges related to First Fridays, the City’s policies about and support of cultural arts, the need for support of grassroot efforts, lack of public art, find jobs for graduating arts students in this area, and the restrictions created by Virginia’s ABC laws.

Another topic that kept popping up during this discussion was the issue of the admissions tax, likely because of the relatively fresh wound caused by the hooplah over at Rumors. For those of you not familiar with the admissions tax, our understanding of it is this: when a venue puts on a show, it automatically has to take 7% off of the money brought in by the show to pay this admissions tax. This reduces the amount of money then passed on to the performers, the distributors, and so on and so forth. Consequently, shows and performers that would otherwise play in Richmond opt for Charlottesville and other areas rather than coming here to avoid the cut in pay. Bottom line: Richmond’s cultural scene suffers because the pool of artists willing to come here is considerably smaller.

But it doesn’t just pertain to bringing in out-of-towners. All venues, including those featuring local performers, are struggling because of it. And while the admissions tax *is* a law and should be honored while it’s on the books, it doesn’t exactly set the perception that Richmond is a town that appreciates live performances because it makes it more difficult for those to happen.

It seems like tackling the admissions tax would be a good place for the Arts Council/CultureWorks to start in their efforts. But obviously that’s just one route they could take.

We’ll be meeting with John Bryan every couple of months this year, and he seems ready and willing to listen. So here’s your chance to let the big-ups know what you want for Richmond’s arts. Leave your input in the comments, and we’ll be happy to pass them along.

Aaaand go.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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