At the most recent Sharptop Arts Association meeting members and leaders tossed around the idea of developing an arts district in the county. Why? Because for years, arts and culture organizers in Pickens have said garnering public support is like living the life of Sisyphus – an eternity spent pushing a boulder up a hill.
Art galleries open, flounder, and then close. Attendance at art-related events is often low and typically it’s the same handful of folks who show up. Remember ArtFest? Organizers shut down after the third year because they said they had a lack of community support in terms of volunteers and patrons. Some arts leaders and advocates think an art district here - or some other kind of unification of the arts - would bolster support in our rural county. The idea of a shared space scenario would reduce maintenance, utilities and upkeep for struggling arts groups. An art district would also serve as a kind of cross-pollination device. Attendees at one show would be exposed to info about upcoming events at a neighboring organization.
To us, art is kind of like hammocks or rainbows. It would be a challenge to find someone who doesn’t like or find value in it in some form - be it visual art, poetry, music or dance. Still, art is notoriously the first head on the chopping block for school curriculum, and is a difficult cause to get the public behind because it’s not considered “essential.”
But there is one area the arts get big support for here – children. Theatre camps at the Tater Patch Players theatre and arts camps at VanGoghs have been very well attended (unfortunately VanGoghs closed last year); the Youth Art Month at Sharptop Arts Association draws more traffic than any other time of the year; and moms and dads come out in droves to band concerts and dance recitals.
Parents encourage children in art because they see value in it. They know studies have found that children with a background in the arts develop strong, imaginative brains, and because of this development they perform better in school.
It’s unfortunate that we encourage our children to create art, but when it comes to supporting art created by adults we don’t get behind it. The Progress has a working relationship with many boards and committees in the county, and we personally know of more than a few arts and cultural organizations that are considering cutting programs because of a lack of attendance and interest.
This raises the question, is the problem that the community is not doing its part to support these programs, or is the problem that organizations aren’t giving the community what they want?
One woman who has been involved in the arts here for over a decade recently made a sad statement. Maybe, she said, Pickens just doesn’t want a big art scene. Maybe Pickens is more interested in sports and humanitarian endeavors. This woman wasn’t passing judgment, just posing a hard question. Does Pickens want art?
In our opinion every community should have a defined arts and cultural element. Without one, we might as well crawl into a dark hole. Who wants to live in a cultural vacuum? People will drive to Canton, Marietta and Atlanta to do “artsy” things. Why not stay here and do the same?
Even if you wouldn’t describe yourself as an “art lover,” we argue that there are reasons for you to support the arts.
• Art makes merchants happy. If a couple or family goes to a play or show, they usually go to dinner or may do some shopping while they’re out.
•Art brings in tourists. If people come in from out of town they spend their money here and support our economy.
•Art creates stronger communities. Studies show that more art means more civic engagement and a stronger sense of community. Having a strong art scene also makes our community more attractive to others.
•Arts inspire us. Art is an expression of our humanity. Because of that, art builds cultural bridges and helps us to understand one another.
While art may not be a basic necessity of life, we certainly don’t want to live without it.