Thursday, January 28, 2010

RVA Arts and Culture District...?

Tuesday morning I attended one-and-a-half meetings during the free pre-conference segment of Art Works for Virginia. The morning's session, led by Brain Shull, outlined Harrisonburg's formation of an arts and culture district (Harrisonburg was first in Virginia to undertake the task of creating an arts and culture district- though more areas have followed suite. Check out VA Arts and Culture, and benefits the area has seen come from this.

The next meeting was led by Theresa Cameron of Americans for the Arts who talked more about arts and culture districts across the country, benefits of the districts, and specific areas-of-concern to be considered during the process of structuring arts and culture districts. More than once, Cameron cautioned that it is of utmost importance to consider the needs of our specific community before determining the guidelines of our own arts and culture districts. (VALAA will be adding information from the conference to its website in the near future.)

Confused? Me, too, a little. As an interested bystander to all of this conversation, I have figured out a few things: first, an arts and culture district is a specific zone that enjoys certain financial benefits (waived sales tax, waived admissions tax, etc.- it can vary from district to district) due to its designation. These benefits are allotted the district with the purpose of supporting artists and arts venues, which in turn attract more business to the area, benefiting the area as a whole. The cry for a Richmond arts and culture district has been raised more than once, but became especially poignant this fall after the October First Fridays/Richmond City Police debacle. It seems the hope of some Richmond venues is that an arts district will make allowances for occupancy restrictions (at least during First Fridays), in addition to waiving admissions taxes- this is an assumption on my part.

After the morning's meetings, I found myself wondering where Richmond stands in the whole arts and culture district process- are we at the very beginning, are we thinking about testing the waters, or have some strides been made? Luckily, the evening meeting sponsored by CultureWorks again featured Theresa Cameron, but this time she spoke about Richmond's progress. It seems that due to the work done on and through the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan, CultureWorks has information necessary in determining the next steps to be taken, which may be garnering support through the General Assembly (?). BAM has some more info on the fruits of the RRCAP here, which makes me wonder if the next update on all of this won't be made public until April 6th?

There could definitely be some better promotion of these events, as Tuesday evening's meeting was attended by less than 20 people. Surely there are more arts big wigs and "interested bystanders" in RVA than that.

And... based on the RRCAP research, what Richmond artists most want from CultureWorks is "an ongoing listing of organizations/competitions/opportunities that want/need visual and performing arts"? And health insurance?

I still have lots of questions about lots of stuff, and if I have put any misinformation out there in the body of this post, please forgive my ignorance and use the comments to educate me. I am interested in what has happened, who is making the decisions, and what is coming next. So if you know, feel free to share.


Julie Brown said...

Hey! I'm just an 'interested bystander' also, and I will stand by you next time! I've been busy moving out here in the blurbs, and have been out of the loop.

Part of the beauty of our arts here is how diverse the locations are, I'd hate to see it in just one area, or have it make an area (Shockoe Bottom, for example) unaffordable for the very artists that are here.

It would be very expensive for some artists in the Uptown area, especially since most of the buildings are owned by 1 person. (I think, used to be, anyhow). Both Manchester & Broad St. are burgeoning--they both need extra help from the city.

Very interesting and important subject. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I'll DM you my phone/email so we can work (or at least observe what is happening)together on this issue, if you like.


RVA Artblog said...

Thanks, Julie! There were concerns raised Tuesday about which area it might be, and apparently there's no reason (aside from money, maybe) why it would only have to be in one area... of course, I think wherever the districts are situated, there will be dissatisfied parties who want the placement to be changed to fit their wants. AND Theresa Cameron discussed the inevitable effects of gentrification, mentioning that there are ways to plan an arts district in order to protect the venues and artists it will benefit even after the area is booming.

Lots to wonder about, for sure. Glad I'm not the only "interested bystander."

Julie Brown said...

Yes, gentrification. Besides the arts, you also have the current residents of the area. Creative thinking, must be a way to have the area remain true to its own roots, as well as the arts. I.E., that cool barbershop downtown. I hope it never leaves. I thought it WAS part of 1st Fridays until I saw something he'd commented on somewhere!

Tiffany said...

I'm grateful to RVA Art Blog for being involved in the conversation! We need more interested bystanders who take an interest. Thank you for all that you do ~ !

From what I understand, an arts and culture district designation doesn't change/lift occupancy limits for buildings.