Triad arts aren’t equal. High Point lags in number of groups, funding
The suspension of operations, however temporarily, at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival on July 31 made the shortage of nonprofit arts groups in High Point more noticeable.
The Shakespeare Festival was by far the largest arts group in High Point, with a budget of $1.8 million and professional status as a member of Actor’s Equity Association, the actors union to which Hollywood and Broadway actors belong. It drew actors for its productions from throughout the country. Because its touring program traveled all over North Carolina and adjoining states, it is known throughout the area.
The Shakespeare Festival plans to regroup, both financially and with its business model, but until then, High Point is left with seven nonprofit arts groups with a significant public profile: the High Point Area Arts Council and its five affiliate organizations and Theatre Art Galleries. Of those, the arts council is the largest, with a 2013-14 budget of $407,908 without counting building operations and $587,352 with building operations.
The next largest is Theatre Art Galleries, a private nonprofit with a current budget of $185,500.
Of the five arts council affiliate groups, two have budgets of less than $10,000 a year, and only one, High Point Ballet, has paid staff. (More information is in the accompanying box.)
The arts council’s recent, ongoing fund drive has raised $168,000. Of that, $82,000 was allocated to its five affiliate groups, and the rest goes into the arts council’s general operating fund.
The High Point arts council long has struggled to increase the amount it raises and therefore allocates.
“You can’t give it out if you don’t have it,” said Debbie Lumpkins, executive director, of this year’s allocations.
The arts council also yearly distributes state Grassroots Arts Grant money and foundation grants. Last year, it gave a total of $23,600 for: 13 Community Arts Project Grants totaling $12,000, 22 Teacher Arts Project Grants totaling $10,000, Regional Artists Project Grants totaling $1,600.
To compare the number of nonprofit arts groups, arts money and the arts scenes in each of the three Triad cities can’t be done precisely because arts councils in each city operate differently. A sampling of figures and facts offers, however, an overview of the imbalance, even taking into consideration populations.
Current figures show the following populations: 105,753 for High Point, 238,156 for Winston-Salem, $273,425 for Greensboro.
Greensboro, which has an arts center downtown and the Greensboro Coliseum, recently announced plans for a $65 million new arts center downtown. Greensboro also has a thriving arts district along S. Elm Street.
Winston-Salem has the new Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts downtown, outlying arts council facilities and the Stevens Center, operated by UNC School of the Arts, downtown. It also has a Downtown Arts District that draws large events and crowds.
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County on Sept. 10 announced plans for a $80 million theater district aimed at improving quality of life in the city.
The closest High Point has to a public arts center is the High Point arts council’s Centennial Station and the city owned and operated High Point Theatre, which seats 1,000 people.
Greensboro’s arts council, now called ArtsGreensboro, does not have affiliate organizations, but instead has an open and competitive grants program that serves as an arts incubator.
Last year ArtsGreensboro gave approximately $1 million in direct grants and related services to 50-60 group/projects, said Tom Philion, president and CEO. ArtsGreensboro also raised $400,000 to stage the 17Days festival for the third year. Currently underway, the festival offers more than 100 arts events throughout the city.
Approximately 75 nonprofit arts groups in Greensboro responded to an Americans for the Arts survey released a year and a half ago, Philion said.
In addition, the city of Greensboro since 1970 has sponsored City Arts programs in the areas of theater, music and dance.
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County has 21 funded partners in both the city and county to which it gave $1.625 million in 2012-13, said Dara Silver, director of funded partners and grant programs. Festival Stage of Winston-Salem, a sister group of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, is a funded partner, and it received $35,000.
Additionally the Winston-Salem arts council has more than 80 member organizations.
In total, the Winston-Salem arts council gave more than $2 million in support and grants in 2012-13.
Those grants included: $6,000 and $21,838 to the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, $18,252 to Festival Stage of Winston-Salem and $4,000 to Winston-Salem Festival Ballet, a sister organization of High Point Ballet.
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Nonprofit arts groups in High Point
• High Point Area Arts Council — Current budget $407,908 not counting building operations, $587,352 with building operations. Raises money for its affiliates; produces events including Arts Splash concerts, Day in the Park festival; sponsors educational programs including John Coltrane Jazz Workshop.
Its five funded affiliate groups are:
• Carousel Theatre – Budget $9,350. All-volunteer group that brings professional children’s theater to area students in grades K-3.
• High Point Ballet — Budget $178,000. Staffed group that gives dance performances and offers school programs.
• High Point Community Concert Association — Budget $30,000. All-volunteer group that brings professional music, dance, vocal performances to High Point and provides free arts education programs in schools.
• High Point Community Theatre — Budget $120,000. All-volunteer group that stages performances using community members of all ages.
• Piedmont Artists — Budget $5,025. All-volunteer group that offers free performances by regional musicians.
• Theatre Art Galleries — Budget $185,500. A staffed, private nonprofit group located in the International Home Furnishings Center building, 220 E. Commerce Ave. It mounts exhibits by local, regional, national artists and offers educational programs, especially to children.
What can be done to spark arts in High Point?
Here are some ideas
BY VICKI KNOPFLER
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
HIGH POINT — What can be done to increase the number of arts groups in High Point and thereby pump up arts funding and the arts scene here?
Now may be the perfect time to consider, discuss and act on a problem that has long plagued the smallest of the Triad cities. Ignite High Point — with input from contracted urban architect Andres Duany —is designed to identify and bring life to a center-of-town area, so why not add an arts environment to the mix?
Here are suggestions, designed to be practical, offered by people in the area who are knowledgeable about the arts.
• Anthony Dean “Tony” Griffey, a High Point native and vocalist, specializing in opera, who was trained at the Metropolitan Opera and performs throughout the world.
“Honestly, education is the key to building audiences. I feel to increase the number of arts groups in High Point we must support local artists. Our children are thirsty for creative outlets in High Point. We owe it to our children to create and support these programs. We need to be inclusive in our arts programs. We need to encourage all people to become involved in our work. I learned my craft by inventing places to perform. I even sang on the street corner of 5th Avenue during the Christmas season when I lived in New York City.
“Our city has the tools to have a wonderful arts program. We must support by attending events, educating and giving of our resources. We must also make sure that we are offering the highest level of performance to our community. Our city is full of wonderful talent. It’s just got to be tapped.
“Feeling is part of living. We live in a world of Skype, Facebook and internet. We must consciously exercise our emotional muscles.
“Lots of communities partner with local colleges, universities and schools to bring more arts groups into the community. UNC-Chapel Hill is a wonderful example of this.”
• Elijah Lovejoy, minister, president of Renovo Design, which produced Party on the Plank in High Point, no longer held, and WinterFest in Greensboro, which is successful and growing.
“During one of Andres Duany’s visits, he said High Point is in a pre-urban redevelopment phase. In other words, there is a lot of work to do before we’re even ready to do urban redevelopment. I think this affects the art scene in High Point. It’s hard to have a strong art scene when you don’t yet have a strong urban environment and cultural community. I see art as the overflow of a strong sense of place and community, which the public then comes to witness and enjoy.
“To build from this pre-urban redevelopment phase that High Point is in, I would recommend identifying and capitalizing on our current strengths. According to the High Point Citizen Survey, many people see High Point as a great safe place to raise a family. High Point should build on its family-friendly reputation by constructing creative state of the art playgrounds that attract existing city kids and tourist families from a multi-state region.
“My wife and I have a 1- and a 3-year-old, and we just took a vacation to Charleston, S.C.’s James Island County Park, partly because they have some very cool playgrounds that we knew our kids would really enjoy. This could be an inexpensive way for High Point to build on its current reputation and increase its tourist draw. I would then work on incorporating the arts with a top-notch playground system. This way you rebuild High Point’s arts scene by focusing on the youngest generations.”
• Tom Philion, president and CEO of ArtsGreensboro (a new name for the arts council in Greensboro), who has led arts groups throughout the country.
“In talking in general about a city and when you look at what’s going on in the country, people focus on catalysts: What can we do to leverage support and grow the arts?
“In some cities, it’s about facilities, which can be a catalyst, as can programming, things like festivals. High Point has the John Coltrane jazz festival. Those are things communities can do to draw interest in arts.
“Strategic planning also becomes really important in terms of thinking where you want to be in four or five years and using the arts as a major niche element, like other communities have done right here in North Carolina.
“Balance is something you need to look for. How do you balance vision and something exciting and compelling with making the numbers work?
“The good news is that every community has the opportunity right now, coming out of the recession. It’s a matter of finding the will and passion to become a catalyst to make the arts an important part of what a city is all about. Look at what (Andres) Duany says and frame it in a context of strategic thinking.
“I’m a big believer in, you can walk into any situation, and any situation can inspire people. You can re-engage people and move forward. You can reasonably take anything and make it work.
“A recovering economy is a good sign; we could be entering an exciting period for the arts.
“Every town can be guilty about looking down instead of up, and in the end, if you have the will and passion, it’s time to look up and think big.”
• Scott Raynor, a native of Trinity who is a practicing artist (paintings, drawings) and an associate professor of art and chairman of the art department in the School of Art and Design at High Point University.
“I grew up in Trinity, but went around the world a little then landed back here. My mother is an interior designer, so I grew up playing in showrooms and looking at decorative coffee table art books. Then I was hooked.
“So what I would throw up in the context of trying to make High Point an arts destination is something I’ve been having conversations about both outside of High Point University and on campus.
“Generally speaking, when you’re in a small town like ours, it’s a good idea to have the arts organizations work together instead of against each other. Coordinate events. That could make a town like ours an arts destination.
“In my own art career, I’ve found that when you start to see artists’ collaboratives, groups that work together and share resources — we’re always needing spaces — you get results. I belonged to one in Greensboro that met in an old elementary school, and without really meaning to, we became a group and staged things in the community.
“Could some of these empty spaces in High Point be donated to divide up and give space to selected artists, the idea being to bring together a bunch of artists? Why not use those spaces? I know of some cities that did this to grown an arts scene. High Point has so many artists who desperately need spaces, and so many spaces that just sit there.
“You put the artists in, and everybody comes to be around that energy.
“Downtown is just waiting to explode.”
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