By Doug Shipman, President and CEO of The Woodruff Arts Center
Welcome to the Arts Community! That phrase can be applied in many different ways: it’s a welcome that has been extended to me many times over the past few months since I became CEO of The Woodruff Arts Center. A hearty welcome should certainly be extended to Atlanta’s new mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, as well as all our other newly elected officials. Finally, the welcome goes out to everyone as an invitation to read this new column each week; Arts and Culture Seen will be a place to learn and go deeply on important issues, perspectives and how the arts impact all of us.
This year has seen a tremendous level of energy around Arts and Culture across the Atlanta region. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has continued its great work around supporting and documenting the breadth of organizations across our region (you can always check out their updated metrics here). In August the Atlanta Regional Commission, working with Americans for the Arts, released a landmark study on the impact of Arts and Culture in Atlanta—it showed the $650M+ direct spending impact of Arts and Culture as well as the 23,000+ jobs dependent on the sector (check it out here).
Beyond the numbers, the Arts and Culture community of leaders and artists have been working together throughout this year to raise awareness, build audiences and outline policy options to our civic leaders and the broader public. The ArtsVoteATL.org effort included a packed Mayoral Forum, social media blasts, surveys and a deep collaboration across disciplines and geographies to define a way forward for the arts in Atlanta. The great news is that the Arts and Culture Community is aligned and ready to help Mayor Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council move forward with an impactful arts and culture agenda that can create jobs, raise educational outcomes and build a vibrant community for us all. We see many opportunities for the arts to contribute to educational attainment, workforce development, employee recruiting and retention and the continued growth of Atlanta’s creative economy.
So what can you expect to find here in this new weekly column? Arts and Culture Seen will be sponsored by The Woodruff Arts Center and it will be a forum for the entire Arts and Culture Community to provide insights, policy prescriptions, the latest thinking on civic issues and will serve as a resource for great thinking. As my colleague Susan Booth, the Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre, put it so well: “Artists are problem solvers, and not just for arts problems.” Sometimes you’ll read columns from Woodruff Arts Center colleagues, other weeks will be authored by leaders from small and large organizations, artists, policy makers and everyone in between. We hope you’ll look to this weekly column as a place for ideas, insights, inspiration and commentary. This won’t be a listing of “what to do on the weekend” (our friends at ArtsATL and Burnaway have that covered so well). Instead, it will be a way to hear from Arts and Culture leaders to showcase something we believe can contribute to building an Atlanta where everyone can thrive.