Jacksonville Review

Why Art Matters in Jacksonville

Hannah West, Anne Brooke & Arlis Duncan

Three years of promoting the arts community of southern Oregon through the Southern Oregon Artists Resource and of Jacksonville as a board member of Art Presence and curator of the art exhibits at GoodBean Coffee have shown me that the arts bring more benefits to our communities than many realize. I’d like to share what I’ve learned about how art affects our community and hope this will rekindle an appreciation that becomes a deeper commitment to supporting the arts in Jacksonville.

The arts have been made and practiced as long as there have been humans. They are key to children’s cognitive and physiological development, and the expressions of abstract thinking, sequencing, and eye-hand coordination needed to make art prepare young minds for mastery in reading, language and mathematics. Integrating the arts into core subjects helps students achieve better understanding, learn faster and retain information longer. Creative problem-solving and collaborative skills gained through training in the arts give kids the edge they need to succeed in the new knowledge-based economy and participate in the rise of the creative class. A new emphasis on the arts in education reflects the fact that creativity has become a valued asset to employers in many industries.

Art also has proven value in healing, and we are fortunate to have some incredibly effective nonprofits putting art to work on behalf of the most vulnerable in the Rogue Valley. From children recovering from abuse and kids battling cancer to adults with cognitive challenges or contending with degenerative diseases, art therapy is providing relief from symptoms, positive self-esteem, better communication, recovery from physical and emotional trauma and open doors of opportunity. All these contribute to a healthier community.

Results from the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV™ study in June 2012 showed that economic activity generated by the arts results in $135.2 billion in total economic activity to the nation’s economy and supports 4.1 million full-time jobs. After reading the study’s results, the U.S. Conference of Mayors urged mayors across the country to invest in nonprofit arts organizations as a catalyst to generate economic impact, stimulate business development, attract tourists and area residents to community activities, and improve the overall quality of life in America’s cities.

Additional 2011 and 2012 studies have so firmly established the contribution of the arts to the economy that government at every level has implemented programs for investments in the arts in education and nonprofit art centers, as well as entrepreneurial support for individual artists.

In Jacksonville we know cultural tourism is essential to our local economy, but it turns out that arts and cultural tourism is the fastest growing segment in the entire industry. Half of all Americans take at least one trip per year, of which 80% seek cultural or heritage opportunities; 15.4 million overseas cultural heritage travelers came to the U.S. in 2010, outpacing the average growth of all overseas arrivals to the United States. It’s so important to the national tourism industry that new commitments to support cultural tourism have been put into place at every level of government.

Communities which embrace the arts enjoy higher property values, which are more likely to remain stable during economic recessions. Jacksonville has benefitted greatly in property values and new residents with higher average incomes in the past twenty years. When residents would rather stay than move away those property values can be sustained. Though we’ve taken a hit with everyone else, we weren’t hit as hard as many other communities and have bounced back with greater resilience than most.  Southern Oregon is one of the top three regions where people moving out of state choose to relocate, and Jacksonville is one of the most desirable spots in the region. The evidence I’ve seen makes me think we have the Britt to thank for much of the gentrification we’ve enjoyed, but to sustain this we need to remain mindful of two things:

  • • As a city becomes more prosperous in terms of property values, artists are less likely to afford living and working there, and
  • • Arts & culture need active and ongoing cultivation to sustain property values, retain high net worth individuals and families, and give visitors a satisfying arts experience.

Art Presence was founded by artist Anne Brooke four years ago. Partnering with local businesses to provide venues for artists to exhibit and sell their work and attract visitors with a variety of outstanding events and displays, the group has helped bring revenue to our business community, supported local talent and is making strides toward contributing to art education, in schools and through the Art Presence Art Center in Jacksonville. With Arlis Duncan’s help, Anne achieved nonprofit status for the organization under the umbrella of the Arts Council of Southern Oregon, which in turn made the Art Presence Art Center’s new home in the former Children’s Museum possible. Soon after celebrating this accomplishment, our situation there became tenuous and finances strained. Some are concerned about the organization’s ability to survive 2013.

I’ve spoken with transplanted residents who love our gallery. They love Jacksonville, yet many left major arts & cultural centers to make a new life here and miss this vital part of their former lives. Their support shows that in its short existence the Art Center has already improved the quality of life for many of our Jacksonville neighbors and has the potential to do much more.

Communities that fail to support the arts suffer from its neglect. If we would continue improving quality of life for residents, increasing property values, building an attractive destination for our visitors and increasing revenue for our businesses, we must do more to support the arts in Jacksonville. We must make sure that our city seeks out and obtains its share of available funding for the arts in education, nonprofit art centers and cultural tourism, and makes a commitment to do whatever necessary to support artists and cottage industries as a key strategy for sustaining Jacksonville’s economy. The numbers are in: a healthy and sustainable local economy needs a thriving art center. Art Presence has proven its commitment to our city’s prosperity and stands willing to contribute everything the arts have to offer toward that end. We urge our Mayor to answer the call of the US Conference of Mayors to invest in Art Presence, our own nonprofit arts organization, as a catalyst to generate economic impact, stimulate business development, attract tourists and area residents to community activities, and to improve the overall quality of life in our city.

Art matters to everyone in Jacksonville, and we ask our neighbors to take action in whatever way you can:

• Visit the gallery and attend opening receptions and artist demonstrations. If you can’t buy art, leave your contact information in our guest book. Proving local support is crucial to obtaining grants and donations.

  • Go to art-presence.org: comment on posts, make suggestions, subscribe to new posts & our newsletter, and view our committees to find an area where you can contribute and who to contact. Share our content with your social networks.
  • Contact us if you’re a grant writer who’d like to help us acquire funding. We will often be required to match grant funds with locally obtained funds, so…
  • Donate to the Arts Council of Southern Oregon with “Art Presence Art Center” in the memo line. Contact Arlis Duncan or go to artscouncilso.org for more information.
  • Write a letter to the Jacksonville Review’s editor, the Mayor and/or City Council and tell them why the arts in our community are important to you and your family.

Thanks to the Jacksonville Review for publishing my piece in Jacksonville’s local newspaper and at their website!