Last month I attended an event that surprised me.
Liz and Andrew Maxfield invited a number of local artists and art patrons to their home for what they described as a Provo Arts Roundtable. I wasn’t surprised at either the sheer number of artists present or the variety of arts represented — from painters to musicians to theatre designers. The Provo scene is briming with talent and remarkably artistically diverse. I wasn’t surprised by the warmth or camaraderie of the art community. Artists know and love and closely support each other. Some of an artist’s most loyal patrons are other artists. I also wasn’t surprised to see representatives from Provo City and even Mayor Curtis himself at the meeting — and robustly participating. In the year I’ve been running my little gallery downtown, the Mayor’s office has made clear its desire to support local art.
What surprised me is harder to concretely put my finger on, but it was a sense that grew over the course of the evening. We sat together, in groups of varying size, to discuss our hopes and visions for the short- and medium-term future of the arts in Provo. We all spoke, and all listened (and ate delicious chocolate mousse). We all heard new ideas. We were idealistic, but also discussed specific, real-world, workable plans. How can we get local businesses and local artists to better support each other? How can art increase its budgetary share of the RAP tax? What can the City do, both to promote local art and to get out of its way? What will the art scene look and feel like 5 years from now?
We talked about the creation and demise of the Provo Arts Council, and discussed concrete steps toward reconstituting it. We talked about the difference between an effective body of leadership in the arts community that emerges organically as people passionate about the arts get together and talk and strategize, on the one hand, and a body merely summoned together through Mayoral decree, on the other. We talked grand plans of community theatres and big museums. We talked about small, collaborative, multi-purpose spaces.
We talked and listened and talked some more, asked and answered questions, leaving other questions unanswered. But it felt like more than talking. Despite the comfort and informality and friendliness of the setting, it felt like work. It felt like we got somewhere. I think this is what really surprised me. A bunch of creative types and idealists got together with elected officials, and it felt like we heard and understood each other and made actual progress.
I can’t imagine this is an especially common occurrence, but Tuesday evening a group of artists and politicians sat down together to talk about funding and supporting the arts, and I sincerely believe that everyone walked out feeling hopeful.
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Writ & Vision
274 W Center St