The city should invest in at least one “bold, iconic” public artwork.
It should develop a program that provides free, citywide access to arts organizations and learning experiences for high school students.
And it should incorporate art into city projects as much as other cities like Dallas, San Diego and Charlotte.
These are among 60 suggestions featured in the “Creative Life” Raleigh Arts Plan recently completed by a committee of more than two dozen people – including artists, business owners, city staffers, educators, politicians and other residents.
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City Council members, who have said they want Raleigh to become the “Southern capital of arts and culture,” are expected to review and approve the plan during their meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“It’s very important to me that we embrace our cultural heritage and new arts endeavors that help define what’s unique about Raleigh,” councilman Russ Stephenson said.
The plan identifies eight broad goals, such as expanding youth arts participation, strengthening arts marketing and establishing sustainable arts funding, and suggests 63 strategies for achieving them.
Some suggestions are practical. One calls on Raleigh to allow art in vacant storefronts. Another calls for developing a “cultural equity policy” to ensure Raleigh celebrates its residents’ cultures equally.
Others, such as the challenge to build a 1,500-seat performance space, are more ambitious.
But Raleigh is more equipped than other cities to take on the challenge, said Sarah Powers, co-chair of the committee.
“Ensuring that everyone can have a creative life is a big undertaking,” said Powers, executive director of Visual Art Exchange. “I don’t think many cities value that the way Raleigh does.”
The committee took stock of the area’s artists, art organizations, art donors, art programs and art facilities in analyzing the local arts scene. The group looked at city policies that affect public art, and polled Wake County residents about Raleigh’s strengths and weaknesses as an arts hub. More than 4,000 residents participated in the process.
A majority are satisfied with Raleigh’s offerings but saw areas that need improvement. One of the biggest complaints was that Raleigh’s venues are concentrated downtown or inside the Beltline.
Venue location is important because the group found that 35 percent of households currently affiliated with Raleigh arts organizations live 45 minutes outside of downtown. Residents also want more public art and more informal live events in coffee shops, bars and parks.
The Raleigh Arts Commission and Public Art and Design Board would oversee implementation of the plan if it’s approved by the council. Mayor Nancy McFarlane expects the council to adopt the plan, and is excited about potentially incorporating more art into big city projects.
In Dallas, San Diego and Charlotte, 2 percent of funding for capital improvement projects goes toward public art. Raleigh allocates 0.5 percent.
“We adopted that policy back in 2009 when we couldn’t build anything,” McFarlane said. “It’ll be interesting to reevaluate where we are today.”
By the numbers
The city committee that crafted the “Creative Life” Raleigh Arts Plan researched facts about the city and polled Wake County residents. Here are some of its findings:
▪ Raleigh’s demand for arts activities is 16 percent higher than the national average.
▪ Nonprofit arts in Raleigh generate more than $6.5 million in local government revenue each year. Meanwhile, the convention center, city plaza and Red Hat Amphitheater contribute an estimated $150 million to Raleigh's economy each year.
▪ Raleigh has more than three times as many arts-related jobs as the national median for similar-sized cities.
▪ About one-third of residents surveyed play an instrument, one-third draw or paint and almost 20 percent sing in a choir.