Secrets of an Arts Administrator

“Secrets of an Arts Administrator” will be a weekly blog post featuring anecdote from regional administrators/educators in the creative field.  It is NCLAC’s hope that through these real life experiences artists in all fields can gain practical knowledge for the industry.  As the famous author C.S. Lewis once said “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” Lesson: You can help shape policy on Arts Funding

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Christie Weeks, current Chairman of the Board for Louisiana Citizens for Arts, speak about funding for the arts.  I was deeply impressed by her knowledge and dedication to arts advocacy.  I was fortunate to catch up with Christie to ask a few questions about public funding and how it impact our regional artists and arts supporters.

NCLAC:  How does funding at the state level impact individual artists?

WEEKS:  Funding at the state level impacts individual artists in multiple ways. Including (but not limited to):

  • Helping artists develop marketing and “the business of art” skills through regional arts agencies
  • Funding supports festivals and arts markets, thus providing venues for visual artists to sell their work and performers to develop audiences
  • DAF--Decentralized Arts Fund Grants (available to every Louisiana parish) provide employment opportunities for Louisiana artists
  • Opportunities for artists to convene and discuss issues that are important to them (e.g., monthly or bi-monthly meetings help by many regional arts agencies and quarterly meetings of the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts)

NCLAC:  What role do you think the arts play in our current culture?

WEEKS:  The arts are central to Louisiana’s culture and identity and a crucial component of our economy.  A favorite equation is Arts + Culture = Tourism.  Globally, when people hear the word Louisiana, they think of great music, unique culinary adventures, and a culture that is like no other.

NCLAC: What inspires you to spend your time advocating for the arts?

WEEKS:  I have read the extensive research about how critical arts education is to overall academic achievement and critical thinking.  If we want to be globally competitive, we have to offer a comprehensive environment conducive to business, including a creative, entrepreneurial workforce and strong communities.  When you look at those cities that have “come back” (Chattanooga, for example) the arts are a core component of the recovery plan.  Nearer to home, the arts have been central to the continued revitalization of downtown Shreveport.

Also, although all my children’s careers are engineering/science oriented, they also value the arts for what it brings to their lives.  Providing a comprehensive educational and life experience for their children is important to them.  So, if I want to entertain any hope that they will return to Louisiana….

NCLAC: Why is it important for artists and arts lovers to advocate on a political level?

WEEKS: You and I know the part that the arts play in our society, but many policymakers and funders don’t understand that centrality.  Rather, they view the arts as extra, as expendable.  We ALL must work to educate our citizenry and remind them that successful artists (who pay income and property taxes!!) must be developed—they don’t drop from the sky.  Arts experiences and education are important for all—we never know where the next Louis Armstrong or William Joyce or Wynton Marsalis will come from.

NCLAC: Do you have a personal story about the positive impact you have seen the arts make?

WEEKS:  There are many.  The saying is all politics is local.  There may be truth in saying the impact of all arts is local.  Several years ago, our Jackson Parish Museum & Fine Arts Association received a DAF grant to assist in the painting of a mural commemorating Governor Jimmie Davis, who made “You are My Sunshine” one of the most popular songs in the world.  We designed the project in a way that would allow people attending the annual Sunshine Festival to paint a portion of the mural.  Watching everyone come together and participate in that creative endeavor was a real joy.  Now, many of us can say, “I helped paint this mural!”  That is a single example of how community can gather around the arts.

NCLAC:  Why is it important for artists and arts lovers to contribute financially to this cause?

WEEKS:  Louisiana Citizens for the Arts is the only statewide organization that advocates for arts funding for every parish in Louisiana.  It is a completely volunteer run organization consisting of artists, arts organizations and citizens who value Louisiana’s unique culture and seek a wide variety of arts and culture experiences—music and art festivals to ballet to theater to children’s art camps to film and more.  We engage a well respected lobbyist to keep us abreast of the budget process and climate in Baton Rouge.  His constant presence at the capitol, in committee meetings, and one on ones with policymakers allows us to know when and how to communicate most effectively with our representatives and senators.  Without membership contributions to LCA we cannot have that real time information and take advantage of small windows of opportunity to convince legislators of the importance of arts funding for all our parishes.

We in rural parishes, especially, depend on public arts funds (DAF) to provide seed money for arts programming.  We then leverage those monies, through additional contributions and in-kind donations, into quality arts experiences for all ages!