Guthrie’s arts community is growing, and the nonprofit organization The Arts in Guthrie is refocusing to better support it. TAG has recently welcomed new members to their board, more than doubling it. The new and current members represent a wide spectrum of the community and areas of expertise, which will enhance TAG’s ability to address specific needs or interests in our arts district.
Through a series of board retreats, which have been facilitated by Ed Long-Lewis, the founder and principal of Cross Sector Innovations, TAG has begun the process of evaluating the needs of the community and their ability to contribute to those needs. Having Long-Lewis’ help with walking through the process of redefining the mission has been invaluable. Also, what a wonderful way to introduce new board members to the variety of possibilities ahead for TAG.
TAG’s mission statement has been refined in order to allow for the diverse needs of the arts community and potential programs that are to come. TAG’s mission, simply, is: “To Grow The Arts Economy” of Guthrie.
From its inception five years ago, TAG’s main impetus has been to bring recognition to Guthrie as one of Oklahoma’s premier cultural arts destinations. In the intervening years, TAG applied for and in 2015 received a designation from the State of Oklahoma as one of the first seven areas in the state to be deemed a Certified Cultural District.
This honor brought with it quite a cache’, including recognition on state websites and promotional materials which helps in bringing more people to Guthrie for arts tourism and added weight when making application for grants, scholarships, commissions, loans, etc. The designation is also a big plus to investors who are interested in Guthrie.
TAG has also developed strategic partnerships with arts organizations statewide in order to foster awareness of all of the arts assets here, and to provide opportunities for our local arts community to both further the development of their businesses and enhance their skills. Their partnerships with Oklahomans for the Arts (OFTA) and Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) have been especially productive.
With OFTA, they participated in an economic impact study that was implemented nationwide by Americans for the Arts three years ago. (AEP5) The goal of the study was to assess the impact of the nonprofit arts and culture entities in the country/state/city/district. TAG opted to have a specific evaluation done on the impact in Guthrie, and paid Americans for the Arts to do the analysis in conjunction with their overall assessment. The results were impressive! The total expenditures of nonprofit organizations and their audiences for FY 2015 was $3,943,163! There were 79 full-time equivalent jobs supported, bringing $1,565,000 of household income paid to residents of Guthrie. Not counting the price of admission, nonprofit arts and cultural event attendees spent an average of $32.60 per person. The City of Guthrie took in $153,000 in revenue. Again, this is only from events given by nonprofit entities and not including any ticket or admission sales.
The results of the study have been used by various nonprofits, the City of Guthrie, private retail and real estate speculators, and more to acquire funding via grants, scholarships, loans and more. This type of information helps promote Guthrie’s arts economy as well as economic and community development. TAG is happy to have been able to provide the information free to the public.
TAG has also partnered with OVAC to bring awareness of the district to OVAC members outside of Guthrie and also to provide development opportunities in the form of classes and access to resources that help in developing a business and marketing plan. Educational sessions have been hosted by TAG in marketing and promotion.
Legal resources offered through membership in The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits provide the information that nonprofit organizations in Guthrie need to be sure to stay in compliance with local, state, and federal laws as well as offering networking occasions and educational classes. It is imperative that he local arts community see themselves as business people who contribute to the overall economic health and wellbeing of our community.
The Oklahoma Arts Council’s input has been essential in the development of Guthrie’s arts and culture district. The concept for promoting Guthrie was conceived off while Swanson attended OAC’s Leadership Arts Program in 2013. From that germ of an idea, OAC provided instruction, support, advice, and finally—funding! TAG was the recipient of two Cultural District Development Grants awarded by OAC in 2014 and 2015. OAC is also the monitoring agency in charge of the Certified Cultural Districts. The staff at the council have been generous with their expertise in a multitude of areas regarding the development of the district and promotion of the arts economy.
Oklahoma Creative, a non-profit organization advancing Oklahoma’s economy through creativity and innovation based initiatives in education, commerce and culture chose Guthrie as one of the towns to participate in their pilot project Oklahoma Creative Communities. This Oklahoma-based international nonprofit asked TAG to apply as the representative entity for Guthrie. The project’s purpose was to aid communities in finding creative solutions for community problems or projects. They offered resources and guidance.
Several issues were identified by interested citizens. One that stood out has been dubbed, “The Elbow Project” which is endeavoring to preserve the unique history of the area of town that is just west of the Depot and surrounded by Cottonwood Creek. Although it was not strictly within TAG’s mission, they felt that since no other entity was stepping up at the time, it was important not to squander the opportunity to help the community. From that partnership, the Guthrie Collaborative was formed and is now self-guided, although TAG supports its goals.
Guthrie is now known and respected for our arts district and is seen as an attractive location for artists of all disciplines to live and work. TAG’s initial mission has been accomplished and now it is time to refocus. TAG will initiate a series of public listening sessions similar to the ones that they had when they first began. The importance of finding out what the community’s priorities are is essential to their planning process. Whether it be obtaining the funding for public and individual arts projects, seeking commissions for local artists, developing processes and applications for requests for grants and scholarships, partnering with municipal government, local businesses, and individuals, or showcasing the incredible artists, artisans, and crafts persons here, the sessions will inform the future course for TAG.
With a plethora of ideas and possibilities to pursue going forward and a supportive and engaged board The Arts in Guthrie is ready to help create more Guthrie Magic! #GuthrieArts #GuthrieCoolness