TRUCKEE, Calif. - Part of working for an arts education organization involves being dedicated to community outreach and advocating for the arts. Not just when we have a fund drive or an event, but all the time. Over the past four years, advocating for the arts in our region has been a bit of a roller coaster. There have been terrific accomplishments and missed opportunities. One thing for sure, accomplishments were made through advocacy, and opportunities were missed when voices could not come together for a collective voice, thus allowing community leaders to turn a deaf ear to what could barely be heard.I would like to urge everyone in our region to advocate for the arts for a number of reasons. First and foremost, art is good for our brains and for our souls. Second, art increases the quality of life for everyone who has access to the arts. Third, it is great for our economy. If anyone looks to what Grass Valley and Nevada City have done with their art scene, it is remarkable. The Tahoe Truckee region has so much more to offer visitors than these more inland and less-geographically stunning communities; yet Nevada City and Grass Valley are miles and decades ahead of us when it comes to having a vision and creating a sense of place around the arts.There are a handful of local organizations dedicated to the arts for our community and who have done remarkable work with limited resources. But there is a limit to what these nonprofits can do for our community without the full support and willingness of government leadership to invest in the arts. I am talking about more than a head nod at a meeting. I am talking about real support in dollars and in real commitment by collaborating to create public art (performing and visual) for our community as well as for visitors. Imagine if people had a reason to visit our region during the off-season to eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels while they enjoy art of all kinds here in the mountains.These are things that other communities have done, and done well. But it was only possible with the support and commitment from their local governments that made this possible. For anyone who followed the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District's Public Art Commission (which disbanded after Measure J did not pass), the town of Truckee was planning to charge TDRPD for parking spaces if a new performing arts center was built downtown.The town of Truckee has the most to gain in positive economic impact by investing in the arts, but it did not show up as a willing partner by offering anything in-kind toward the project. I do not know why this was the case. But this really needs to change, and it can if the community begins attending local government meetings and asking the newly elected officials to seriously consider the importance of including the arts as part of our community's fabric.Local government is made up of dedicated people who are working hard to do what they think is best for our community - but they have a lot to consider, and the arts may not be on their radar. So it is up to you, the voters, to attend meetings and ask local government to include the arts as part of their master plan, not just within written documents but in practice.There are grant dollars available to help make it happen. Simply visit www.NEA.gov to get started on your research. There are towns and cities across the nation taking advantage of all these resources. It is not too late for us, but it is time we gave the arts some serious thought for the good of everyone.Advocacy works - and works well. A great example of advocating for the arts is Tahoe Truckee Unified School District embracing art education beginning this school year thanks to Measure A funding. Our school district leadership understands how badly art has been missing due to No Child Left Behind, so the pendulum on including arts education is swinging back toward the right direction.Maybe this next generation will appreciate the arts because they will have access to art in their classrooms. Maybe they will grow up and advocate for the arts. Or better yet, run for local government to ensure art is part of our community in a meaningful way. Who knows - the possibilities are endless - but not without everyone deciding it matters, and speaking up for art.Raine Howe is executive director of Arts For the Schools.
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