I recently returned from the annual Americans for the Arts convention, held this year in Chicago, along with more than 1,400 of my peers from across the country.
It was an excellent opportunity to network and learn, and to represent the Pikes Peak region on a national stage. Several key themes were woven throughout the many educational sessions during the three-day conference, but the one message that resonated most strongly with me was the need for successful arts leaders to work across sectors and outside of our existing silos to find meaningful and mutually advantageous ways to connect the arts with other service agencies and organizations.
To do this effectively, we as arts leaders need to build genuine relationships with trusted partners throughout our community. We need to more clearly articulate our message about the important role that arts and culture can play in driving economic vitality, preparing our children for future success, addressing social challenges, bringing people together and enriching our souls.
One speaker also emphasized the importance of cultivating these cross-sector connections in ways that are as interactive and engaging as possible, making the experiences meaningful, memorable and sustainable.
This dialogue got me to thinking about what we’re already doing here in the Pikes Peak region. I reflected with great pride on the new partnership that the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region has forged with Colorado Springs Sports Corp. to cross-promote events and activities on our www.peakradar.com community calendar platform.
This collaboration between COPPeR and Sports Corp. connects two seemingly unrelated organizations in a way that adds real value to both stakeholder groups by eliminating the possibility (and unnecessary cost) of duplicative services, and by providing a common online calendar platform with more comprehensive information about leisure activities and opportunities.
I also thought about the amazing work being done by other local arts organizations like the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s Bemis School of Art, Concrete Couch and the Mural Project of Colorado Springs.
Among their many socially conscious, cross-sector initiatives, Bemis has been working with the Griffith Centers for Children, a nonprofit that serves at-risk and low-income youths with emotional and mental health issues. By using the visual and performing arts as an expressive outlet, this collaboration helps children develop and maintain a positive attitude toward education and become responsible and contributing citizens in our community.
Concrete Couch works with military families, children and Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion to build community on post and between military and civilian populations. They also run a variety of other free programs for underserved youths in cooperation with area schools and local park districts.
The Mural Project’s entire premise is built upon impacting social service needs. Through partnerships with military service groups like the Wounded Warrior Project and Project Wounded Ego, The Mural Project works with at-risk or underserved populations to increase awareness, raise funds and generate a greater understanding of current social challenges, as well as to create uplifting hands-on experiences for participants and to showcase undiscovered talents.
These are just some of the ways that artists and arts and cultural organizations in the region are working to break down silos and engage the broader community.
It’s no surprise that the creative sector has the power to inspire and enrich us personally through traditional artistic experiences. However, when we work in close cooperation with non-traditional partners — like the sports community, military and various social service agencies — the arts also have the ability to create “ripple effects” that will transform our community in many compelling ways.
At COPPeR, part of our important work is to celebrate the many cross-sector collaborations already taking place and identify opportunities for new partnerships that will enable the region to more effectively address the challenges we face.
If you have ideas for possible collaborations or creative ways to weave the arts into the fabric of your community, I encourage you to reach out to me directly so that we can start a conversation. The possibilities to create positive change through the arts are endless.
Andy Vick, executive director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, can be reached at email@example.com.