Council seeks ideas from art community

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Missouri Arts Council's newest board member and the director of the local arts council are pushing for a big turnout at an upcoming public meeting with MAC representatives.

The meeting is at 5 p.m. Friday at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, and comes on the heels of Missouri House and Senate committees recommendations that the legislature honor Gov. Matt Blunt's recommendation of a $5 million increase in funds for the arts in Missouri.

"If the arts community in Southeast Missouri, and the people who love the arts in Southeast Missouri, want to have a say in the future, they need to come," said Delilah Tayloe, director of the local arts council.

At the meeting, MAC representatives will discuss the organization's strategic plan for 2008-2011, which looks for ways to achieve four goals: establishing Missouri as an arts leader, increasing participation in the arts, growing the state economy using the arts and strengthening education in the state through the arts.

MAC is hosting a string of meetings throughout the state to follow up on meetings held starting in 2005 to get ideas from the public in forming a draft of the strategic plan.

One of those meetings was scheduled in Cape Girardeau last November and was rescheduled because of bad weather. No one showed up for the rescheduled meeting, and Cape Girardeau almost wasn't included as a stop on this tour.

But MAC director Beverly Strohmeyer said correspondence from area citizens and leaders, including Rep. Nathan Cooper, showed Southeast Missouri's interest in taking part in formation of the strategic plan.

"I thought that, as we continue to grow the arts in our community, it's important we're looked at as viable by the statewide organization and the membership of the Missouri Arts Council," Cooper said.

Cooper said he supports fully funding the governor's arts recommendation as a way to help boost the state's culture and economy, as well. A strong artistic culture attracts businesses and tourists, which in turn boosts economies and the general quality of life for citizens while bringing in more revenue to fund other improvements, he said.

Dr. Joel Ray, a newly appointed MAC board member from Southeast Missouri (the first in more than 20 years), talked recently with both Cooper and Sen. Jason Crowell to encourage them to support the governor's funding recommendations. Blunt has recommended about $8 million in funding for the MAC and its cultural trust. Ray also is facilitating Friday's public meeting.

Crowell said he heeded Ray's recommendation, pushing his colleagues to make sure the funding wasn't cut below the recommendation.

Some local arts advocates believe the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, which serves 23 counties, has been overlooked in grant funding awarded by the state council. Last year the local arts council awarded a three-year operations grant worth $11,716 to the local arts council, making it next to last in funding. At the top of the list were Springfield, Boonville and St. Joseph, with $21,265, $20,687 and $20-120 respectively.

Ray said he'd like to see a big turnout at the meeting, and he'd like people to e-mail him evidence of benefits the area has or could derive from the arts at ilovemac@westray.com. Using that feedback, Ray said he hopes to make a case to the MAC about a cultural renaissance he sees taking place in Southeast Missouri, centered in Cape Girardeau.

For more information on Friday's meeting call the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri at 334-9233.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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