Call to Action · Features

Access Makes the Arts Grow Wider | Expanding Gateways

by Randall Forte, executive director, Lehigh Valley Arts Council

This article appeared in The Express-Times newspaper on March 4, 2013.

ArtsCountOnMeButtonFinalThe arts have never been more important to the Lehigh Valley. Hundreds of creative industries, nonprofit cultural organizations, and thousands of individual artists of all disciplines—dance, musical, theatrical, visual, literary and media arts—are invested in our community.

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council is the region’s central voice for the arts. It’s our calling to promote arts awareness and advocate its value. It’s our vision to ensure that everyone has access to a rich, diverse arts culture.

Arts are key to economic development in the Lehigh Valley. We give that reality voice by making sure data is gathered and made public. Lehigh Valley’s three cities have acknowledged the arts as part of their downtown revitalization plans. The region’s nonprofit arts and culture are a $208 million industry—one that supports 7,114 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $21.4 million in local and state government revenue.

Arts are the highest form of expression. They have the power to make our lives better, heal emotional wounds, spark initiative, and broaden perspectives.

Artists and their work keep us connected to one another —our fellow passengers on the journey— through image and movement, story and song.

It is only by expanding access to the arts that Lehigh Valley artists and arts organizations can enrich everyone.

The Arts Council acts as both advocate and catalyst to create new gateways, bringing people together to find solutions that advance greater arts participation. We have four major priorities for 2013:

1) Schools: Declining funding is shutting students out of arts experiences. Our educational newsletter, ArtLinks, that connects educators with current research and local arts resources, is distributed to every public and private school in the region. The Urban/Suburban Connection Program, an after-school enrichment program, improves literacy and fosters multi-cultural understanding.

2) Technology: In coalition with the Center for Vision Loss and the Center for Independent Living, individuals with disabilities, and several cultural organizations, we have launched a Pennsylvania Arts Access Program. It offers the sensory-impaired access to cultural events by providing arts groups with shared use of audio-description and open-captioning equipment.

3) Support for Arts Professionals: Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Grants Program supports individual artists and community groups bringing the arts to underserved audiences. The Arts Council also offers workshops on topics like marketing, technology and legal and tax issues.

4) Sustainability: The Cultural List Exchange Co-Op, a cooperative marketing program, improves marketing intelligence and expands audiences. The co-op uses data mining that enables cultural marketers to save money through mailing list sharing. The Arts Council and Discover Lehigh Valley are program partners.

The Arts Council is open to everyone. Please join your voice with ours and help us open the door wider for the arts in the Lehigh Valley.

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