JAHC bringing in consultant

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Juneau Arts & Humanities Council is bringing in a nationally recognized expert to lend a hand with the council’s business plans, as well as to address local business factions.

Craig Dreeszen, a national consultant on public policy and creative economic development, will aid the JAHC board in setting its strategic plan for the next several years. The board is hopeful his expertise will go a long way in shaping a plan to use the arts more economically in Juneau.

“It’s at a juncture where it needs to set back and look at what it’s doing,” JAHC Executive Director Nancy DeCherney said of the board. She said the artistic community in Juneau has thrived to the point where it should be considered in more economic decisions, and she hopes Dreeszen can help with that.

She said that Juneau is immersed in various creative works that can represent a good opportunity for companies that are recruiting for the area. She said Native art, local poetry, ballet, Juneau Lyric Opera, Juneau Symphony, Perseverance Theatre and other creative endeavors are unique to this area and are referred to when organizations are bringing in professionals to what Juneau has to offer. She said JAHC wants to build on and show “what we can do with these things” to provide even more commerce in the City and Borough of Juneau.

“As the city’s arts agency, we want to see what we can do to capitalize on this creativity, she said, adding, “I’m called on for what cultural opportunities for families of professionals coming in are here. There are amazing amenities here and we’re asking ‘How do we maximize that?’”

She said there’s a strong interest in creativity as an economic force and, unlike other services, this is one that is central to its area of origin and cannot be outsourced.

She said the quality and quantity of the arts here represent a vast potential for cultural tourism.

DeCherney said many people don’t think of the arts as an area of business, but it is and therefore needs to be managed as one, with proper care to budgets and planning.

“I consider it a renewable resource, and it is something we can take advantage of in this community,” she said.

She said the business plan is five years old and needs to be updated, although it’s reviewed every year.

Dreeszen brings an impressive resume that DeCherney is confident will benefit the local arts council in becoming more of a business. He is a recognized expert on the role of arts and culture in communities and has authored books on the business of the arts. He directs the Arts Extension Service at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He also specializes in creative economies, or ways to embrace the arts to attract more people. DeCherney said he “literally wrote the book” she has relied on in her position, which is titled “Fundamentals of Arts Management.”

While he’s in town, Dreeszen will also be a featured speaker over the weekend for local businesses, the Downtown Business Association, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary clubs and assembly members.

“Because he was already coming to work with the board, we thought it would be a good idea for business leaders to work with him,” DeCherney said.

Dreeszen’s work with JAHC is part of a Rasmuson Effective Organization grant, with additional support from the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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