Leaders in the Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 initiative announced last week that some of its programs will be a reality long before 2020. In fact, some of them will ideally become a reality before the end of 2012.
"We no longer focus on what the community can do for the arts, rather we focus on what the arts can do for the community. It is an entirely different way for society to view the arts," said Dan Bowers, president of Allied Arts. "By building a healthier arts community we create a sustainable creative economy, one in which arts organizations contribute directly and indirectly to the community's success."
In an effort by Allied Arts to expand artistic offerings to the community in a way that meets local needs, a 50-person steering committee and group of consultants developed a cultural plan which will work with the community in four different areas: diversity, economic development, creating a more vibrant downtown and educational opportunities.
Urban League of Chattanooga Vice President and Chief Operation Officer James McKissic, a leader of the committee dedicated to diversity, announced a $40,000 grant program that will be implemented in the coming months for local arts groups.
"Each grant will be up to $3,000 and offered to neighborhoods, municipalities, arts and human services organizations," he said. "To participate, the grantees will have to do a two-to-one match. We feel like that's going to go a long way to really bring the arts to the community and bringing the arts to all."
Leaders of the committee dedicated to economic development said one of their main goals in the coming months is to secure the location of a cultural hub for the downtown area.
"Potential uses could include a performance space, rehearsal space, studio space, shared administrative space for arts organizations, a gallery or classrooms," said Allied Arts and Chattanooga Arts and Education Council board member Maury Nicely, one of the committee's leaders. "There are a number of spaces we've identified as potential cultural hubs, and right now we are working to see what other cities have done both successfully and unsuccessfully."
The committee focusing on education, a recurring topic at many of the Imagine 20/20 focus groups earlier this year, has several initiatives that are already in progress. A program called Imagine! that would provide each Hamilton County elementary student an arts experience every year from kindergarten through fifth grade, is one of the committee's primary focuses.
"By September of this year we hope we can announce a full implementation of this program," said committee leader Henry Schulson, executive director of the Creative Discover Museum. "We want to develop a sustainable source of funding so by the time a child reaches fifth grade they've experienced a variety of arts."
Schulson listed trips to local museums, performing arts showcases and school visits made by local artists as some of the experiences the group hopes to provide for local students. The committee is also working on several arts pilot programs and the creation of a countywide festival that would emphasize the artistic achievements of local students.
A comprehensive arts and culture website with an interactive schedule and a new weekly arts and culture publication provided by the Chattanooga Times Free Press are slated to be released this fall, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press Online and Technology Director Ed Bourn.
For more information about Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 visit www.imaginechattanooga2020.org.