Monday, November 21, 2011

Cultural Council asks artists 'how can we help you?'

Cultural Council asks artists 'how can we help you?' By JAN SJOSTROM DAILY NEWS ARTS EDITOR Posted: 6:33 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 The mood was optimistic when more than 50 artists gathered to brainstorm about ways the Palm Beach County Cultural Council could improve its services to them. The meeting, held Wednesday at the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, was the third of four organized to solicit feedback from individual artists. A written survey also is being conducted. To date, most of the council’s focus has been on cultural organizations. Now it plans to do more for individual artists, president and chief executive officer Rena Blades told the group. In January, the council will open the 11,000-square-foot Robert M. Montgomery Jr. Building in Lake Worth, where it will have 2,500 square feet of exhibition space, meeting rooms, and a store featuring locally made arts and crafts. The organization has hired a staff person to work on individual artists’ programs. Kathleen Klein, chairwoman of the dance department at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, wasn’t sure what to expect from the meeting, but “I want to be part of the conversation,” she said. As a performing artist, she was in the minority. Attendance has been dominated by visual artists, Blades said. The council hopes that artists from other disciplines will step forward as its services for individual artists increase. The bulk of the two-hour meeting was spent in small-group discussions in which responses were solicited in five areas: professional development and training; financial and work support mechanisms; artist access to art-making equipment and work spaces; artist convening, networking and presentation space; and reaching new audiences, markets and customers. Palm Beach interior designer Mars Jaffe was enthusiastic about the meeting. “This is great,” she said. “We need this in this county.” She’d like the council to help artists secure affordable studio spaces and a place where they could network and talk about art. Other requests include an online classified ad service for artists and marketing training, Blades said. “We’re hearing things we could not have thought of on our own,” she said. “We’re getting some great feedback.” Boynton Beach photographer and digital artist Flo Minton recently set up an online store to sell posters, calendars, greeting cards and other products she designs. She’s delighted that the council is taking a greater hand in aiding individual artists. “I have all these ideas,” she said. “Who am I going to go to to make them happen? People like this. This is what makes it happen.” The council isn’t the first organization to survey artists to shape a game plan to meet their needs. The Artists of Palm Beach County coalition did that about six years ago, but fell short in execution. “Having the Cultural Council driving the engine makes it a lot more possible,” said Terre Rybovich, one of Artists of Palm Beach County’s founders. The council will hold another meeting with artists in April, when it will release the results of its research. The report also will be shared with the county’s cultural organizations. Artists can expect some new programs to start soon. But more difficult proposals, such as possible new grants programs, will take longer to develop, Blades said.