Culture Matters

culture matters importance art councils


Artistic expression transcends recorded time. Since the firstdays humans walked the earth, artistic expression has been an important part of our existence. In modern times, in our era, the arts have been proven to have positive effects on students, children, and adults. Some of these beneficial effects are not so obvious.

Art is culture, expression, freedom, beauty, pain, sadness, and happiness. Art instruction often improves astudents achievement in other studies and in life. The University of California at Los Angeles used a federal database of over 25,000 middle and high school students in a study, which found students with high arts involvement performed better on standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement. Listening to music can also be therapeutic, stimulating the human brain at subconscious levels. Dance improves coordination and balance.

The arts encompass and relate to all aspects of the human experience. But, how does our society ensure artistic expression continues to thrive? Art councils.

What Are Art Councils?

Art councils are most simply defined as a government or private, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the arts in many ways such as funding local artists, awarding prizes and grants, and organizing events at home and abroad. Art councils typically are created to fund local artists and art-related events, performances, and exhibitions. They also help give artistic opportunities to kids in school.

Beneficial not only to the national, state, regional, and local economies, these councils act as support systems for artists. Art councils are typically funded through charity events, memberships, grants, and donations. Charity events in various forms can also serve as performance platforms for relatively unknown to nationally recognized artists.

Each art council typically has its own unique vision and mission to help preserve community culture, help fund local artists, organize events, and increase awareness, while stimulating tourism due to the richness art adds to an area. They continuously strive to ensure cultural experiences are preserved through varied forms of artistic expression.

Showcasing a State's Culture

The recurring theme of every state level art council is protecting its state's heritage while blending cultures and promoting the cause of the arts. Each area’s council does charitable events to show the community the importance of the arts and to showcase local talent.

The Georgia Council for the Arts seeks to create high-quality artistic experiences for Georgia residents in the hopes to develop an appreciation and respect for the arts. This council strives to provide opportunities for citizens and scholars to study art and culture to create jobs to help enrich the community. This council represents over 12,000 creative industries. Its mission statement is similar to that of many other councils, "to cultivate the growth of vibrant, thriving Georgia Communities through the arts."

The Illinois Art Council, created in 1965, has three main goals focusing its attention on arts education, working artists, and Illinois’ art sector. This council also aspires to blend the culture of multiple local communities and promote state unity through the arts.

For more than 40 years, the South Carolina Arts Commission, an autonomous state agency, has primarily been funded by state taxes and run by a Board of Commissioners. According to their website, they have “produced nationally recognized initiatives in arts curriculum reform, rural arts development, dance touring and audience development, community design, electronic communications, media arts, and traditional arts infrastructure development.” Steadily, they've worked closely with local art councils throughout South Carolina to ensure all South Carolinians, regardless of economic status, have access to the arts.

Locally Focused

The South Carolina Arts Commission recently named the City of Rock Hill's downtown area, Old Town Rock Hill, as the firststate recognized cultural district in South Carolina, the fifth state with a cultural district program.“A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theaters, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity,”

“A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theaters, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity,” says Ken May, South Carolina Arts Commission's executive director.

The Arts Council of York County, headquartered in Old Town Rock Hill, worked with local leaders and the arts commission to develop a map of the cultural assets in Rock Hill. “The cultural district recognition will enhance what is already a vibrant arts scene,” said Art Council of York County's executive director Debra Hientz. The arts council also manages three buildings in old town: Center for the Arts, Gettys Art Center, and Community Performance Center.

The Center for the Arts houses three galleries. The Dalton Gallery is a professional, non-collecting gallery that features 6-8 exhibits each year. The artists whose works are featured in the Dalton Gallery are from across the world. The Perimeter Gallery is reserved for emerging and regional artists, and the Edmund Lewandowski Classroom Gallery often features works created by students from grade school through college. The exhibits at the Center for the Arts are celebrated with receptions held in honor of the artists and their work during the time the work is on display.

The Arts Council of York County offers small grants to York County visual and performing artists on a quarterly basis. These grants are designed to provide support for small or pilot arts activities to developing programs or organizations, or to special art projects. The council also hosts a literary competition featuring short stories andpoetry, and publishes an online literary magazine that contains select works submitted to the competition.

The Gettys Art Center and the Center for the Arts house 20 artist studios for rent at a below-market value. These studios are used by potters, designers, illustrators,painters,bookbinders, bow tie makers, filmmakers, fashion designers, and authors from across York County.

Annually, the arts in York County draws 165,900 people from 262 cities, 44 states, and 14 countries. Its mission is “to provide leadership in arts education and development, arts marketing, and arts advocacy,” Melanie Cooper, marketing coordinator for the arts council explains, “our vision is simple, to create, and support a thriving, diverse and vibrant arts community in York County.”

The Arts Council of York County funds all events, grants, exhibitions, and all of its other activities through memberships, donations, grants, and fundraising events such as the Annual Gala and the Prohibition Party. The art council also works in conjunction with the City of Rock Hill and York County Convention and Visitors Bureau to help market the area.

Support Your Local Art Council

Art councils directly contribute to making a community richer and a more vibrant place to live, work, learn, and play. It strives to deepen and enrich the culture; helping connect citizens from all walks of life through artistic expression. Around the country, numerous arts councils are busily staying funded, representing local culture, and making a case for the importance of the arts. Culture truly matters to the human experience and continues to be recordedthrough varied forms of artistic expression. I hope you’ll support your local art council. It is truly a local asset.



Wesley Masters is a Fort Mill High School graduate and former reporter for The Buzz TV. She attends the University of South Carolina and plans to study Broadcast Journalism.