K D Lee, PhD 
Member since Aug 3, 2010


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Re: “Art House

The above comments are important in discussing arts development in Regional Memphis. One commenter shrugs at the thought of additional Studies to develop the plan. The Study is not necessarily the problem and is very necessary in City-County Planning. However, the challenge for local governments is inclusion and providing career opportunities for local artists and arts administrators on research teams that are generally being contracted from outside the state. All too often, city administrators seek advice at the major arts and cultural institutions that are only concerned with their own stability and sustainability. Too few administrators employed in major arts organization partake in dialogue and vision processes to expand emerging, grassroots, and cultural heritage arts organizations that support new arts activities and artists. Who participates in the Study Before the Strategic Plan Process, as well as who continues to participate as arts planners after the completing of the Study, becomes equally important.

The Wharton Administration has begun to address and plan for the Arts in ways that no other administration has in the City’s recent history. However, the development of a cohesive arts community concerned about the development of diverse amateur, folk, and professional arts will require additional educational resources at local universities and colleges. One commenter’s critique states that major arts departments at colleges and universities create miniature microcosm for their own artists, professors, and students. I agree with this observation and extend it further to suggest that the major arts and cultural institutions in Regional Memphis also create member-communities that support their own organizations and agency missions/visions only. Additional educational and policy initiatives to train and develop arts administrators and arts policymakers are very needed in this city. Similarly, a basic acknowledgement that support for Individual Artists, Arts Administrators, and Arts Researcher in terms of fellowships, artist exchanges, part-time teaching, research, and administrative positions, etc., are required to stimulate foundations and business owners to support emerging arts infrastructural development. For without the creation and efforts of Individual Artists, arts institutions and organizations will have few reasons to exist.

This point now returns us to Mr Stroud’s comment about this community needing a local exhibition space for local artists and as a means to stimulate camaraderie among local artists. The community had a space that was beginning to make strides in this local representation of artists with renowned national and international artists. This space was named, PowerHouse Memphis Art Gallery in South Main Arts District. Unfortunately, the managing organization could not sustain itself after a longtime illness of its founder and the eventually splintering of its board over funding and programming. I again repeat that additional educational efforts and activities are needed in arts management training for staff and boards of smaller, emerging, grassroots, and cultural heritage arts organizations. Additional information and study is also req economic development impact of the Arts and Entertainment is needed in city planning. Thus far, most planning and development related to the Arts in Memphis have been via the expansion of Entertainment Districts with commercial prowess and intent rather than cultural heritage and nonprofit arts expansion as goals for improving the “quality of life” issues that are also related to economic viability in Memphis. Arts and Philanthropy Studies are also needed to adequately understand what has happened and not happened in fund development locally via individual, corporate, and foundation gifts.

Once more, through recent efforts of the Wharton Administration, to understand and address a gap in arts policy planning and after the completion of a few strategic studies related to the Arts, Arts Policies, and Arts Administration, this city and county could emerge as a Arts Mega like no other in the Mid-South within the next seven years. This issue of Arts Infrastructure Development in Regional Memphis extends beyond “checkbooks” but goes to the core of the matter of diversity and inclusion of individual artists, folk artists, cultural heritage artists, arts administrators, and arts educators in city and regional planning for the Arts. The Art House funding is only one planning initiative that is beginning to address infrastructural arts policy development in the the city by the present administration.

Posted by K D Lee, PhD on 08/03/2010 at 5:18 PM
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