by Julie Wilkerson
On Monday, September 16, ArtsGeorgia and the Macon Arts Alliance hosted the first in a series of regional Arts Advocacy Roundtables at the Mill Hill Community Arts Center in Macon for a discussion about local, state and national arts advocacy related topics. The local arts and business community was present to share advocacy information and to discuss local issues affecting artists, arts education and the local economy in Macon and the surrounding area.
Participants represented groups and individual artists from music, film, performing and visual arts and included Justin Andrews (the Otis Redding Foundation), Aaron Buzza (Visit Macon and the Macon Film Commission), Jim Crisp (Theatre Macon), Joe Patti (the Grand Opera House), Jessica Walden (Rock Candy Tours), and Chris Wind (local musician).
The purpose of the Roundtable was to establish a dynamic starting point for arts advocacy at the state-level while also supporting local public policy efforts. Presentations on the history of arts advocacy in Georgia, state, regional and national arts funding, plus arts education, pending legislation, advocacy resources, and working with local elected officials and state legislators prepared attending arts advocates for challenges in the coming year.
The meeting took place in the Mill Hill Community Arts Center – the anchor for the Mill Hill Arts Village, a revitalization effort in Macon using art as a catalyst to fight vacancy and blight. The project is an excellent example of how local government can work with arts groups to accomplish common goals. Blight funds were combined with government bonds and private donations to purchase a block of 14 blighted houses and renovate the shuttered Community Center. An NEA Our Town grant was also instrumental in funding the project.
The attendees discussed the relationship of the arts and work force development for communities like Macon, how the arts impact Macon, and participants considered who from the community should be included at the future Roundtable meetings.
The local Roundtable meeting was successful on many levels and the group plans to get together again and start a local advocacy chapter. In addition, several of the attendees are interested in participating in advocacy efforts in Atlanta and Washington. We appreciate ArtsGeorgia and their efforts to bring advocacy education to Macon and other communities around the state.
Author Julie Wilkerson is the Executive Director of the Macon Arts Alliance.