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For Arts’ Sake goes into action mode

Sacramento’s For Arts’ Sake initiative reached the tipping point from planning to action Friday.

“Now that the art community has gathered together and convened everybody … there’s a place for everyone to participate,” said Mayor Kevin Johnson.

“We’re going to do massive outreach,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go out to citizens all over Sacramento and say, ‘Here’s how you can sign up, here’s how you can help, tell us what’s important to you, what are your priorities,’ and we’re going to make them a reality.”

The arts community was invited to the recently expanded Crocker Art Museum Friday for an update on the For Arts’ Sake initiative, and National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman came to voice his appreciation for what Sacramento has done.

“We’re here for a reason, and that reason is the commitment to the arts in Sacramento that Mayor Johnson has led,” Landesman said. “It’s very inspiring, and I think it can be a model for the rest of the country.”

Key to making it work, according to Landesman, is developing a political structure that understands the importance of the arts and looks for ways to bring them to the community.

“I have not met a mayor who understands that better and gets it more (than Johnson),” Landesman said.

The initiative has three major goals, according to Sharon Gerber, former liaison to the arts, who spoke at Friday’s event.

One of the goals is to strengthen the cultural infrastructure by developing a way to fund the arts with public funds as well as increase private-sector contributions.

Also key in moving forward is to give children access to the arts in schools and possibly hosting an arts festival to bring the community together on the issue, according to Gerber.

Finally, Gerber said, is the need to invest in the artists themselves and drive creativity in the community.

“We were bound and determined that this would be implemented,” she said.

Now heading For Arts’ Sake is its new project manager, Deborah Edward, whom Gerber said was key in developing the arts in Austin as well as working with arts organizations in Europe.

Edward said she was “just blown away by the energy and the arts here.”

To harness that energy, For Arts’ Sake formed nine teams, each with its own responsibilities for helping meet the project’s goals.

Those teams began meeting and planning community outreach efforts Friday, directly following Landesman’s speech.

For Arts’ Sake was launched in June 2009 by Mayor Kevin Johnson to “create a collective vision and direction for the arts in Sacramento,” according to the initiative website.

According to Landesman, “The hardest thing to overcome is the mindset that the arts are a ‘nice-to-have’ and not a ‘must-have.’ ”

Johnson said he is dedicated to ensuring – through For Arts’ Sake – that the arts aren’t going to be on the chopping block at the first sign of future economic uncertainty.

Photo is Rocco Landesman.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

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