Following up to the Sunday, November 1 Savannah Morning News’ ‘Jason Buelterman aims to build ‘good relationships’ in his run for Chatham Commission chair, Jason was asked to respond to his vision of how arts and culture should be positioned in Chatham County.  In response, he shared:

If elected as Chairman, what role do you believe Chatham County should have in the sustainability and growth of the arts and cultural industry?

This is a great question. We are blessed to have such a vibrant arts community throughout the county which enriches the lives of our residents and business community. We are also fortunate that the arts community is growing and as such, needs the support of the Chatham County Commission.

We have seen, and will hopefully continue to see, artists and innovators seek Chatham County as a place to be inspired, create, and develop new for-profit and non-profit businesses. These new ventures are coming because we have an already existing thriving arts community who provide incredible opportunities for artists, citizens and visitors.

I believe the role of the Commission Chair is to identify collaborative relationships to help both the county and arts community grow and support each other. I would look for ways to partner with both the non-profit and for- profit organizations.

I do not just say I believe in the arts and culture of a community; I have supported it during my time as Mayor on Tybee Island. My experience and actions speak to this issue better than anything else. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish and the impact.

Here are just a few examples:
     • We established and maintained a line item for the arts in the Tybee Island city budget. Specifically we provided funds for the Tybee Arts Association (http://www.tybeearts.org/) so they could provide opportunities for local artists, bring arts education to the community, and work with our community’s youth.
     • We also invested in capital needs for our arts community. Some examples include:
          o We committed funds from the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) to put a roof on our old historic post theater to protect and preserve it as part of a collaboration with the local non-profit, Friends of Tybee Theater (FOTT) (https://tybeeposttheater.org/mission/) . We worked with stakeholders to make sure that it was rehabilitated properly. We contributed additional special purpose local option sales tax dollars to provide the technology they needed for sound, lighting, projection equipment and other production needs. This theater is now up and running (live music and theater shows, movies, community workshops, etc.) and is filling a gap that previously existed in our community. It not only benefits ALL residents, but it attracts Savannah area patrons and tourist who are patrons of the arts.
          o We worked closely with the Tybee Island Arts Association (local non-profit) to identify a city owned property for the arts community. We took an old building that had previously housed our fire department to create the Jim Ingham Blackbox theater and Community Arts Center. This has been an extremely successful collaboration between the city and non-profit. The city provided funds to pay for technology needs in the facility as well. It is now used by residents and Savannah area artists for live theater performances that are enjoyed by Tybee residents, the greater Savannah area residents, and visitors to Tybee. The Arts Center also hosts youth dance classes, Tybee theater camp, art classes/shows, and various events throughout the year. Not only does it improve the quality of life for people who live here, it also helps our local businesses. On show nights for example the performing arts productions will partner with local restaurants to offer deals for tickets and pre-and post-show meals and drinks.
     • We worked to provide space in a city building for artists to work and display their art. They hold sales in this facility and the availability of this facility helps them to support themselves so that they can continue to produce they are wonderful pieces of artwork.
     • We collaborated with various film crews and production companies to support the growing film industry.
     • We launched the community mural project and held various events throughout the year to bring the community together. During these events many local artists participated (Choirs, dance teams, bands, marching bands, crafts, art shows, etc.)
     • We supported SCAD specifically with the Sand Arts festival and student projects.

All these occurred because we value the arts. The City Council and I recognized the impact that a thriving arts community has on the quality of life for our residents and how the arts benefit our businesses as well. I will bring this same mentality to the Chatham County Commission if I am elected. I will work to ensure the County government is engaged in supporting the arts in the same way that Tybee (and Savannah) have stepped up to support the arts.

What actions might you consider taking as Chairman of Chatham County to assist the industry in return for greater benefit to Chatham County?

I will work with local unions whose members are engaged in the production of art, listen to the needs of local artists and supporters of the arts, support the continued growth of the film industry and use the bully pulpit of this seat to be an enthusiastic advocate of the arts.

Just as an example, the Mountain Film Festival that comes to Savannah every year is such a wonderful benefit for local students and perspective filmmakers not only at the college level but at the high school and middle school level. I see this first-hand in my role in the public-school system. These are the types of programs and initiatives we need to grow and cultivate. I want to make sure EVERYONE has access to the arts. Let’s find community art projects and collaboration projects to not only advance the arts but enhance communities! We can do so much when we work together. The fist step is to identify the needs/opportunities and then work to make it happen!

Our community overall has made great strides for the arts with the Yamacraw Performing Arts Center, the new civic center, Savannah Cultural Arts Center, SCAD and more. I would like to continue to find ways to support and collaborate with the arts community and the various municipalities to support what we have and find opportunities to grow.

Addressing specifically the voters that have a direct or indirect interest in the arts and culture industry, what message do you have that you wish to communicate?

I will be an advocate for sustaining and growing the arts locally. I want to hear your ideas and your concerns and find ways to work together for our common goals. Let’s listen to each other, do our research, brainstorm, and work together. I see the arts as an integral part of a community. Creative companies, innovators, and those gifted with creative talent make our community prosper in many aspects. I will do everything I can to support and advocate for our current and future arts community. Additionally, I think we have opportunities to find ways to bring more cultural awareness to our county and we can do this through arts programming, cultural appreciation, etc. Let us see how we can better our community through arts and culture! It is a win for all!

Finally, through the lens of arts and culture, please share any other thoughts to voters of why they should vote for you.

The arts and culture of our community is part of my family. I want to support the arts and culture not just because it is the right thing to do as an elected official but because I believe in the value and impact of arts and culture.

     • Personally, I am an avid music lover and I attempt to play guitar. My family and I enjoy going to various concerts and music events. (Concerts in the park, local concert events, Savannah Music Festival etc.) I would love to see us expand the ability to bring more up and coming musicians to the area.
     • As a dad, I see how much my little girls engage with the arts. Whether they are creating art, watching a play, reading a book, going to a school concert, etc. their foundation is so very tied to the arts. Dance parties when cooking dinner or taking them to Henny Penny for art days. Love seeing them express who they are. All families and children MUST have access to the arts.
     • My wife is a professor at SCAD and is also involved with the Tybee Arts Association as a community theater actor/singer. She is incredibly passionate about the arts.
     • As a teacher I see how students need the arts to express themselves, discover new worlds, cope with life, and challenge them. Whether we are discussing a photograph from history or dissecting the meaning of an editorial cartoon, students learn so much through the arts.

With all that said, I will work hard in the short and long term to build upon the incredible arts community we have in Chatham County.

Additional Endorsements & Information:
     • “As the organizer of the Tybee Island Songwriters Festival. I approached Jason with this idea and he immediately jumped in knowing what it would mean for the arts community in the surrounding area. Jason went above and beyond at every turn to ensure we had all the support we needed and that the festival was a huge success.” – Sean Squires https://tybeeislandsongwritersfestival.com/artists/ (Canceled in 2020 due to Covid)
     • “As president of the Tybee Arts Association, I know first-hand how hard Jason has worked to build and support ALL of the arts on Tybee while Mayor. For 14 years he has been a champion for the Tybee Arts and Association and the Tybee Post Theater. I know he will continue his support for all community art as the Chatham County Commission Chair.” – Renee DeRossett, President, Tybee Arts Association
     • Watch facebook.com/.Buelterman/.videos/. for an upcoming edition of “Between 2 Surf Boards” where I do an interview focused on the arts community.

Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions. If you would like to discuss this or need any additional information, please feel free to contact me at 912-844-8427 or via e-mail at Jasonforchairman@gmail.com.