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Local arts supporters petition commissioners to establish arts council

Tuscarawas County supports the arts. The Tuscarawas County Center for the Arts, the Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas, the Little Theatre, the Tuscarawas Philharmonic, local school districts and many other arts organizations understand the importance of including art, music, theater and literature in the community for the benefit of residents and visitors.

A group of local arts supporters packed the William E. Winters Board Room in the Tuscarawas County Courthouse Annex July 14 at the biweekly meeting of the Tuscarawas County commissioners.

Commissioners Chris Abbuhl, Belle Everett and Kerry Metzger were a captive audience as Dr. Mike Morelli, PAC general manager, spoke on behalf of a local group of like-minded individuals who believe Tuscarawas County could benefit from a designated arts council.

According to a creative industry report published by Americans for the Arts, Tuscarawas County has 154 arts-related businesses and organizations that employ nearly 500 people. These creative industries account for about 2.9 percent of the total businesses located in the county.

“Why is this important?” asked Morelli. “They are the folks that create jobs, educate our kids and make our community a better place to live.”

The numbers, according to Morelli, do not include independent artists, of which the county has many in the form of fine artists, designers, musicians and writers.

“We have a lot of artists and cultural practitioners that do it on their own and often without any support,” said Morelli. “That’s even the case with some of our arts organizations and our cultural organizations who don’t have a staff of thousands.”

Morelli pointed out a local arts council just to the north of Tuscarawas County, Arts in Stark, that facilitates the arts with a $3.2 million budget each year and generates $1.7 million in donations.

Morelli hopes to identify what an arts council would like to offer Tuscarawas County. “Is it an arts identity? Is it unified marketing? Is it renewable funding streams? Is it employment opportunities, individual recognition, creative collaboration, grant seeking? Well, we don’t know,” said Morelli. “We would like to request the county commissioners to commission a group of 12-21 volunteers to determine the feasibility of a local arts agency in Tuscarawas County.”

Morelli suggested the group be a cross section of artists, educators, arts and cultural organization representatives as well as business executives, business owners, legal professionals, finance officers and the movers and shakers who might have a passion for the arts. “They might be government employees or marketing professionals, a tourism organization or others,” said Morelli.

The mission of the initial local volunteer arts group would be threefold; research other local arts organizations, compile a Tuscarawas County cultural inventory to identify who is here, and analyze the benefits of a local arts agency. “This seems to be the backbone of the group,” said Morelli, who suggested one month to put the group together. Once in place, the group would meet, perform the research and the analysis and then present their findings by the end of March 2015.

“We have talked about the importance of the arts to education,” said Commissioner Chris Abbuhl. “We have talked about science and math which are very important. Sometimes we forget that the arts actually enhance those types of studies and that have been scientifically proven through different studies. I think this is something that really needs to be done.”

Tuscarawas County commissioners agreed to take the suggestions under advisement.

Published: July 18, 2014
New Article ID: 2014707189989