Visual Art Commentaries

Expendable or Economic Engine?
VIRGINIA HOFFMAN SRQDaily October 15, 2011 

I have advocated for 30 years for individual artists to have access incentives, business opportunities and public art projects, but not much has changed. While other places around the country understand the value of creating in housing, studio and public programs for individual artists, our city and county still has little available for them. Elected officials countered this to me by pointing to the one penny of tourist tax that goes to culture. A very good thing globally, but when funds go to incumbent cultural organizations, little trickles down to individual artists. Sarasota should look at Greenville, S.C. that made small sized retail and studio space available to individual artists for the price of a parking space in a municipal parking garage. Look at Melville N.J. that gives interest free loans to artists who move into its business district. Look at Chattanooga Tenn. that offers up to $50,000 to fix up a live-work studio space where artist owns it with no mortgage payments for the first 5 years. Artists should work collaboratively together to achieve opportunities. This is on the rise in Sarasota thanks to the equalizing power of social networking. Visual artists, typically shy, must emerge from their silos, get involved in the process, attend government meetings and let their voice be heard. Build political capital with elected officials. Lobby for your profession as other businesses do. Our leadership must understand that individual artists are actually small businesses. Most have two full-time jobs, one to pay bills and the other creating artwork. This is dedication and stamina to be admired. Establishing incentives for them will make our redevelopment and economic development programs flourish. Look to Miami, where in just seven years the community has transformed into a significant arts destination fueled by the Art Basel. A little bit of that mojo would boost prosperity for our area significantly. Some criticize the money our city invests in the minority community, but my mantra is fix up the most down trodden neighborhood and your entire city will benefit. Invest in the programs that help the individual artists to prosper and your economic engine will roar like a lion. Watch out mice!