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Arts groups gather to discuss how to improve the Tri-State arts scene

Oct. 22, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Although over the years the Huntington Museum of Art has partnered with most Huntington area arts organizations, Museum director Margaret Mary Layne said it's rare to get all of the area's arts groups under one roof to talk about how to make the arts scene better.

What Layne calls "a first date" for artists and arts-interested people to gather meet, network and discuss ideas, is called The Huntington Arts Summit, and will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

Free and open to the public, the event will include a welcome by Layne, will feature several quick presentations before folks, like at Chat 'n' Chew, go to small group discussions before gathering back together.

Those quick presentations include a Powerpoint of arts groups; how the arts dovetail with other community efforts by Phoebe Randolph, Edward Tucker Architects, info about a Certified Arts Community application by Byron Clercx, Marshall University, info about the Community Arts Calendars by Tyson Compton, CVB and The Herald-Dispatch and the Importance of Dun & Bradstreet numbers; Americans for the Arts study - The Arts and Economic Prosperity by Layne.

Sarah Denman, former Marshall University administrator, will moderate the reports from the roundtable discussions.

The Summit organizers hope that the event will produce a positive discussion about ways to promote the arts and to make the arts more accessible to everyone.

"Appalachian culture is so amazing and the art being created in this region, whether it is traditional or modern, is the expression of that culture," said Randolph, one of the event organizers and member of Create Huntington. "We are interested in hearing from all types of artists, from creative writers to filmmakers, entrepreneurs to educators. We have incredible resources in our community already, and this event is an opportunity to organize those efforts to enhance the role the arts play in the lives of our children and to explore the potential economic impact that a thriving arts community can have."

Layne said they're inviting all arts groups and individual artists to come out and give their input on how to collectively strengthen the arts scene in Huntington.

"For groups that are all volunteers or individual artists, we are providing them a forum that they might not have had before," Layne said. "They are busy just doing their performances or what they do, so this is away that once a year we can all come together to talk about the issues and the common goals."

Layne said one thing they hope to accomplish soon is to apply to the West Virginia Commission on the Arts to have Huntington designated as a Certified Arts Community.

"Huntington is an obvious choice for this designation as for decades this town has supported the arts in all its forms. The group felt that a lot of positive energy, networking and collaborative effort could have its genesis at this Summit," said Layne.

Layne said the city and county representatives have both passed resolutions supporting Huntington as a Certified Arts Community. The application is done as well. Layne said by hosting an event like the Summit helps in getting the designation which can further sell the city as a landmark area for the arts.

Layne said the meeting will dovetail with the work the city of Huntington is doing on its 2025 Comprehensive Plan and serve as a public meeting for that effort. Additional Summit organizers include: Brandi Jacobs-Jones, Brianna Shell, Byron Clercx, Don Van Horn, John Farley, Natalie Blackwelder, Rosa Lee Vitez, Susan Nicholas and Tyson Compton.

Some of the topics to be discussed in relation to that will be where would artists and residents like to see more public art, how can the arts work better with the corporate community and to see if anyone is interested in an annual arts festival.

Like other group efforts such as "Our Jobs, Our Children, Our Future," and more recently Create Huntington, Layne said she hopes the Summit is a conversation starter that ignites arts groups and people to come together to make things better and make things grow.

"We want this to be a positive experience with people coming together to talk about the arts," Layne said. "This is kind of a first date for everybody, a community date. We hope to bring all of these people together and to meet people they don't know and to start those conversations."