Arts conference focuses on funding, roles of local councils

First statewide council meeting in almost two decades begins Monday

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2007

Back in the mid-1980s, when there was more state funding for Alaska arts organizations, more cities and towns had professionally staffed arts councils.

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Nowadays, only five arts councils in the state - Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Homer and Fairbanks - have full-time staff members.

"When the economic crash happened in the late 1980s, a number of these arts councils just lost their funding," said Charlotte Fox, executive director of the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

The State Council on the Arts and the Rasmuson Foundation will hold a conference of Alaska art agencies in town on Monday and Tuesday.

The state council has been holding small, stateside meetings for performing arts organizations for the last four years, Fox said. But it's been almost two decades since the last statewide, skill-building seminar.

Conference presentations will stress the basics of nonprofit management and the role of a local arts council.

"Everybody wants art and culture activities whether you're in Dillingham or Anchorage, but it's a question of getting the funds to do it," Fox said.

"Other than the really well-established nationally known organizations like Perseverance Theatre, getting private, corporate and individual donations is a challenge," she said. "That's going to be a lot of the conversation - what people are doing to get around that."

Maryo Gard, the former associate director of the Colorado Council on the Arts, will present "Old Ideas: New Paradigm: The Local Arts Agency Today" at 9 a.m. Monday at Centennial Hall.

Gard works with the Community Resource Center of Denver as a consultant to nonprofits in Western Colorado and manages the Peer Assistance Network for the Colorado Council on the Arts.

Barbara Schaffer Bacon is the co-director of Animating Democracy, an Americans for the Arts program that fosters civic interaction through arts and cultures. She will lead a presentation on "National Trends for Local Arts Agencies," at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Centennial Hall.

Bacon, former executive director of the Arts Extension Service at the University of Massachusetts, is a board member of the Fund For Women Artists and an adviser to the New WORLD Theater.

The arts councils in Nome and Barrow used to have full-time staff. Now, they're run by volunteers. Even the nonprofit Anchorage Cultural Council has a solely volunteer staff.

Dillingham, Bethel, Talkeetna, Sitka, Palmer, Haines, Soldovia and the Friends of the Wrangell Museum will be represented Monday and Tuesday.

The Wearable Arts programs in Juneau and Ketchikan are examples of innovative ideas in which arts councils raise money.

Bethel holds the annual Camai dance festival, a giant fundraiser that attracts people from all over the state and particularly the Lower Kuskokwim River.

"Most of these communities are trying to be as much as they can to their communities with little or no staff," Fox said.

• Korry Keeker can bereached at 523-2268 or

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