Optimism with a realistic view of the work ahead

After the recent Arts and Culture Summit, we surveyed participants to learn a bit about what people think may be the path forward. The Summit’s theme was arts infrastructure north of the Columbia, with a focus on downtown Vancouver in particular because of its potential as a catalyst for investment that could have ripple effects across Clark County and southwest Washington.

With 130 people in attendance, we had 44 survey responses, a 34% response rate which is within the expected range for an audience already engaged with the topic. Overall people were very positive about their experience at the summit, giving it an average score of 4.3 out of 5. People on the whole seemed to enjoy the event. The panelists, speakers and the substance being addressed was connected and resonated with the crowd.

Here are a few notable quotes:

To be able to speak with other artists and art supporters in my community was invaluable for me. It left me with a feeling of communal energy for change and growth in my community.
— Nicole Schmidt

Uplifting, connecting, dreaming, creating. A good day.
— Amberlynn Lane

So inspired. Great ideas. Hope.
— Stacey Graham

Our small sample of 44, we think, represents a fairly good cross section of the people who are actively thinking about the future of arts and culture in our community. The active arts community in Vancouver and Clark County, does tend to skew older, female and Caucasian.

We believe this is changing and should change. Also, we know our community has a much more diverse population of both audiences and artists/performers than reflected by attendees at the summit. Younger people and people of color may not necessarily engage with older-model arts organizations. Recognition of this issue at the summit led one of the several breakout groups to focus solely on how we can encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the arts.

Our survey sample ranked the various topics discussed by the panelists, revealing both how they would prioritize arts infrastructure needs and what they might consider low-hanging fruit. These thoughts are reflected in the bar chart below and in the profuse comments submitted in the survey. Below are a few selected responses.


What do you see as the most immediate opportunity for the development of arts infrastructure in Southwest Washington and Vancouver?

Developing and supporting a strategic framework for the City of Vancouver, through the work of BDS. Once that plan/report is written the community must step up to understand it, embrace it, and put it to use.
— Kris Tucker

[BDS Planning is the firm working with the City on their revised Culture, Arts and Heritage Policy.]

I think an arts council similar to RACC is crucial to developing an arts infrastructure specific to the needs of Vancouver and Clark County. A publicly funded arts council familiar with our specific needs could advocate on our behalf in an official capacity. This would make it easier to gain political support and city funding for arts initiatives.
— Jane Degenhardt

[RACC is the Regional Arts and Culture Council in the Portland region south of the river.]

In terms of what’s easily accomplished and most expediently accomplished, it would be live/work spaces for artists. In terms of imperative need, it would be a performing arts center that would be the foundation to all other infrastructure occurring.
— Dan Wyatt

What obstacles do you think stand in the way of progress on this front? (political, economic, cultural or otherwise)

There is always a call for a huge performing arts center. Hasn’t worked yet. Local performers need a space.
— Jim Martin

1. People don’t know what they want.
2. People are making assumptions and have not shared those with others.
3. People do not collaborate, they protect turf.
4. Lack of durability from politicians or government.
5. Vancouver may not be grown up enough to accomplish this progress.

— Richard Burrows

Cost is undoubtedly the main issue. Having someone in the Economic Development office dedicated to arts support in Vancouver would help to raise public awareness and support, and give other efforts a spokesperson for raising funds in whatever way necessary (budget, grants, taxes, initiatives, etc.).
— Beth Wood

People most likely to commit financially are at a stage wherein one is static. Younger people are not as attached to place and do not seem to be willing to investigate the arts. The emphasis on STEM in education may contribute to less social consciousness of the value of the arts.
— Sharon Wylie

Are there any other comments or ideas that you would like to share?

Can a bond be put to a vote for funding? I’m thinking how we have a fantastic library and that we can get an art center the same way. 
— Kim Murton

There are so many talented people in SW Washington in the performing and visual arts. It is a shame that we do not celebrate them and claim them as our own. At this moment it is expected that those wanting to participate in quality performing and visual arts will hop in their cars on Friday and Saturday evening, drive across the bridge to Portland to eat dinner, attend entertainment, celebrate afterwards and then drive back across the bridge to Vancouver to sleep. Not a penny spent in our own town. The irony is that many of the artists and performers are from Vancouver!
— Kathleen Jung

Art is the cultural conveyer belt that brings our past with its traditions, sorrows, passions, and wisdom to the forefront. It nourishes the young; it enlivens the old; it makes a vibrant display of our multi-cultural and cross-generational tapestry; it enriches all of us. The arts–theater, literature, photography, paintings, sculpture, songs, poetry, dance, whatever we make that takes the courageous leap from our personal inner sanctum into the bigger world–it really matters. It is our channel of possibility for understanding.
— LaRae Zawodny

Hear, hear!