Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chas. Arts Coalition gets organized

Posted by John Stoehr on Sun, Dec 21, 2008 at 3:43 PM

It's been six months since we heard from the Charleston Arts Coalition, the ambitious and impassioned group of artists and arts supports not to be confused with the nascent discussions taking place over at the Coastal Community Foundation.

That discussion has to do with Charleston's Big Three and other performing arts groups struggling amid an economic crisis. George Stevens, the foundation's president, is talking about the need for an "arts council" to help with the business side of the arts — for the most part, marketing, promotion, and development.

This Charleston Arts Coalition, however, is different. Over the summer, it attempted to make the case for a "unified center for the arts." The argument was confusing. After a trio of public forums, it lost ground and quickly receded from the spotlight.

Fortunately for us, it did.

Since then, the Coalition has gotten organized. After many dozens of meetings, the organization has emerged with a discernible structure, purpose, and set of objectives. And it has a new website to help articulate all this to the public, (www.charlestonartscoalition.com).

Its mission, according to the website, is "to unite the creative arts community in the Greater Charleston area. CAC seeks to inspire the community and region through support, advocacy, outreach, and educational programming that facilitates sustainability of the creative arts community."

In other words, it's evolved into a membership-based service organization that Charleston badly needs.

Its goals are modest, simple, and tentative: to create a comprehensive cultural calendar via a website called charlestonculture.com (it hasn't been constructed yet); to conduct a membership drive; to establish a series of creative arts round-table discussions; and to look for a venue for the arts.

A significant first step is the creation of a survey — a smart move. The survey aims "to evaluate the needs, wishes, and goals of creative individuals and organizations ... the survey will help guide us with your feedback, concerns and thoughts as to how the Coalition can best serve you."

What I like is its pragmatism. Even the search for a venue is being characterized as "a Camelot quest," suggesting the new leaders of the organization know the difference between needs (membership, structure, achievable goals) and desires ("a perfect creative arts facility and venue").

Those new leaders are Jessica Solomon Bluestein, president and spokesperson for the College of Charleston's Tate Center for Entrepreneurship; Laura Ball, vice president and a local musician; Colleen Deihl, secretary and patron of the arts; and Crystal Embry, treasurer and accountant with Hyland, Ruddy & Garbett.

I had a few things to say about the Coalition in its early stages, mostly how it needs to be mindful of appearances. Bluestein evidently agrees with me. In an e-mail earlier this month, she said openness and transparency were among the organization's main tenets:

As with any serious campaign for change, time for organization, bridge building and a clear and concise message is of the utmost importance in being able to engage, inspire and ready the masses to take action when the time is right.

Since July, the Coalition has been doing just that: getting organized, forming a foundation, embarking on building bridges in the community, and preparing for the right time to communicate our message of unifying the creative arts community in the greater Charleston region.

She also promised an interview in January. More then. —John Stoehr

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