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Do Arts and Culture Really Matter?

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Kimberly Fish: award-winning novelist and entertaining speaker talks art and culture

Do Arts and Culture Really Matter?

By Kimberly Fish

Recent buzz in Longview has surrounded the development of a Cultural Arts District. The question a lot of folks ask is, how would this designation make any difference in doing life here?

Art means different things to different people, and this district would not mandate what defines art in Longview. What it would do is provide a bigger stage to showcase what is created here, what our story is, and what we’re interested in learning more about. The argument can be made that the majority of Longview folks never darken the door of an art show, theatre production, or concert if their kids aren’t involved. So, why would having a district devoted to promoting the art exhibits, music venues, museums, and cultural events make any dent in the current habits of Longview citizens? This news might not even faze most folks. But, events that happen in an arts district build community, and we need reasons to get tougher, and do life together, now more than ever before.

Local museums have had to beg and cajole to meet their budgets and keep their lights on—even with interesting exhibits and new paint on their doors. To bring all that energy together with the efforts of the symphony, band, and ballet—plus, performing arts venues and public gardens, would be a powerhouse in applying for national and regional grants, as well as funneling in new tourism dollars. Experts say we can attract more flies with honey and the sweet smell of art is beginning to swirl through Longview.

Instead of every art-based, non-profit trying to nickel through their budgets, all the sudden, the doors are swung wide open and our art district leaps onto a bigger financial radar. In reverse, because we can bundle together a museum, a performing arts venue, and a children’s museum in one application, now Longview doesn’t look like a small-town stop, but a bustling city that can support bigger touring shows. So, no more need to travel to Dallas or Shreveport to see something interesting—interesting could be within walking distance. The Belcher Chapel and Performing Arts Center at LeTourneau University is the Papa Bear in local cultural development—they have a line-up of touring artists that is amazing—and including LETU in the district invites more people to discover this venue. Plus, restaurants and retail like to fall in with a vibrant arts scene, and this district could become an economic generator for Mobberly Avenue and Downtown Longview. Who wouldn’t want to see that happen?

The cultural arts district designation may not create a tangible difference in how we live, like how the new Longview Arboretum will be touchable and ever-changing, but it will give our local leaders strength when applying for better grants. It gives grit to those non-profit directors that feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. And who knows, with everyone working together to do something good for the greater good, maybe we’ll see Longview come together, and shine, like we know it can. Arts can be very good for Longview.