Greensboro’s Elm Street reads like a chronology of economic development and revitalization projects from the last two decades with its many museums, art galleries and restaurants. To Mayor Nancy Vaughan, an effort to create a sustainable and comprehensive road map that supports the arts in Greensboro is the next logical step.
At a kickoff event in the Greensboro Cultural Center late yesterday afternoon, community members witnessed Vaughan’s idea actualize in the form of the Greensboro Cultural Arts Master Plan Task Force. Local artists, art educators, and business and nonprofit community leaders comprise the 23-member team of volunteers.
Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann said that Vaughan first presented her vision during discussions regarding the Steven Tanger Performing Arts Center, which broke ground on April 26.
“As we were looking at community needs and community wants when considering the performing arts center, [the mayor]… wanted to ensure the vibrancy and vitality of our entire arts community in Greensboro,” Hoffmann said.
Although each speaker extolled the aesthetic significance of art, economic development clearly underpins the city-wide effort.
“I think it’s important that while we acknowledge the value of the arts that we also acknowledge their economic impact on our community,” said Linda Carlisle, former secretary of the state Department of Cultural Resources. Paraphrasing writer and strategist Daniel Pink, she said “We have to stop thinking about the arts as ornamental and start thinking about the arts as fundamental.”
According to Hoffman, 2010 data showed that the economic development value of arts in Greensboro is an estimated $120 million, employing more than 4,000 people in full-time jobs. When available later this year, she said she believes data updated through 2015 will demonstrate a substantial increase in both measures.
Jacquie Gilliam, a community volunteer, will serve as Hoffmann’s co-chair. Gilliam is relatively new to the Greensboro community; she stepped away from her career in California where she was a leading fundraiser for UCLA when Vaughan and Hoffmann invited her to join the project last year.
“I look at this task force as not just a way to create a report that will sit on a shelf,” she said. “This is a call to collaboration not only from all of those on the task force but to everyone that is involved in the arts in Greensboro, a call to collaborate to form not only a wealth of ideas but also concrete steps for the implementation of those ideas.”
Members of the task force stated that they want to avoid prioritizing legacy organizations, and they encouraged lesser known arts organizations to come forward and get involved in the process.
“When things have been done in any environment for a long time and they work, people often don’t stop to reimagine what a little bit of change might do to enhance that mechanism or their organization,” Gilliam said afterwards. “I think one challenge is getting people out of that comfort zone and getting them to reimagine what their organization might look like, and also identifying and moving forward synergies between organizations to maximize and leverage resources.”
The working group will hire an expert consultant in the field of community art development this summer and launch a planning process at the end of August.
“People are very eager and excited to get this moving forward,” said Gilliam. “And, again, it’s not about creating a report; it’s about creating an implementation plan that is feasible and doable…I’m all in and I want [the community] to be all in, too.”
To learn more, visit the Greensboro Cultural Arts Master Plan Task Force website.