Involved Artists: Statewide Arts Conference

September 19, 2013

Resources for Artists | ,
Bringing artists, arts administrators and community leaders from around the state together, the Oklahoma Arts Conference features fascinating speakers and topics related to the arts.
Diane Mataraza, presenter at the upcoming
2013 Statewide Arts Conference
Diane Mataraza, principle of Mataraza Consulting, has devoted 30 years to creating success strategies for arts and cultural non-profit organizations. Mataraza has served as an arts educator, a non-profit arts administrator, a federal arts funder at the National Endowment for the Arts at the and director of a national foundation in the entertainment industry (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Foundation –the Grammy Awards).
Mataraza spent lots of time in Oklahoma last winter developing a plan to help the Arts Council of Oklahoma City’s Community Arts Program serve more broadly in the community.  She responded to a few of my questions about the role of artists working with community projects and planning.

Reflecting on your work with cultural planning, how have artist’s perspectives impacted those processes?
I consider myself very fortunate that my world and the realm of my life’s work includes arts, culture, history, and heritage.  
In any planning process, to the extent possible, involving those who will be affected by the results of that plan or impacted in any way is essential. In cultural planning, the involvement of artists (actually all souls that are part of the “cultural delivery process”) is essential. Artists always contribute to a stronger, more effective process and results. Artists see possibilities where others may not. Artists find pathways. Artists and the generosity of spirit they bring to a planning process always make results richer, more authentic, better…
For these and other reasons, artist’s involvement in cultural planning is critical. You can’t plan without them!  Artist involvement is as critical as the involvement of those for whom change is desired, be it a neighborhood, a school, a community, a city, a state… Planning for people never works. Planning with people does.
Website for Mataraza client, Artspace in Raleigh, NC
Please share any favorite examples or stories of artists’ role in community projects.
I have zillions. At this very moment, I am in Raleigh, NC working on a plan with an organization called Artspace. The intent of this project is to help Artspace be as relevant as possible in this fast-changing community. At last night’s meeting with a small group of Artspace artists, we designed the approach we are going to take to reach out to and involve in this planning process as many of the artists in this community as possible. Not just the 130+ Artspace artists, but other artists and creative in this community who might find value working with Artspace. And in this part of the world, there could easily be hundreds of them. 
Each artist is going to reach out to their network and other communities of artists in Raleigh to gather their collective wisdom about what could be here. Some of the ideas shared in the past 36 hours have included artists incubators, innovation and tech labs, with their placement encouraging greater connectivity with the neighborhoods. Artspace Artists are going to help me write the questions we ask of all artists in seeking their ideas and opinions of what priorities should be. As priorities emerge, artists will be at the planning table to help imagine how they will be addressed. Artists will be integral in defining what role they also can play in implementing solutions.
In a central PA community where I did a cultural plan, a downtown struggling to revitalize itself decided to put artists in the part of downtown with a lot of vacant space. One of the successful strategies that emerged involved local developers and the city who owned some of the buildings, and a neighboring college who needed more student housing. Art student housing was created. Additionally, art making and exhibition places were added. You can imagine the rest of the story. Art outside buildings and inside buildings, the change in the streetscapes and the new energy in that downtown were important elements in the collective strategy to revitalize that downtown.

What tips would you give to artists new to working with the community?
  •         Learn as much about the community and people with whom you’ll be working before you meet with them.
  •          Listen carefully.
  •          To the extent possible, understand the vantage points of your partner. The more carefully you listen, the more rapidly you will envision great pathways and discover good solutions.
  •          Be generous in sharing your aspiration – your partners will find it inspiring
  •          Share ownership – enable, empower.
  •          Generosity of spirit makes tough paths easy – even fun and energizing.
  •          Always err on the side of kindness.

Register for the Oklahoma Arts Conference by 9/20/13 to get the early bird rate of $75 (the two-day conference is only $125 after the early bird deadline).