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Training For the Future:

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Arts Advocacy Workshop
March 2 • 5-7 p.m. • FREE
Cameron Art Museum
3201 S. 17th St. • 395-5999
cameronartmuseum.com

Last year, Karen Wells at Arts North Carolina put together a presentation about advocating for the arts and took it on the road. After six different workshops, it was clear that there was a greater need for the information. This year, the workshop is coming to 25 different cities and Wilmington is one of the lucky audiences. The group’s mission is to gather concerned citizens for creative and collective action. In a town where a large arts community is still without a council, the ideal of smart organizing is a welcome topic. Wells hopes to find a ready audience that can utilize the workshop for change.

“In the presentation, we will go from a motivation, or the ‘why’, to learning the tools, or the ‘how’,” says Wells. “What I keep coming back to in my speeches is basic common sense. People just haven’t thought about it as a unified action.”

Unity, says Wells, is the key ingredient. When people realize that they all care about something, it can be powerful initiative to get something moving in a legislative sense. “In Wilmington, advocacy can be a very unifying practice,” she says. “Everybody figures out where the arts are valued in the public sector. From there, they can set a good foundation for what might happen in the future.”

Wells and her colleagues enjoyed a victory last year with Senate Bill 66, which insisted on arts as a priority in public schools. When asked about the lack of an arts council, Wells hesitates to give an opinion because, as she says, “I’m an outsider.” She points out that Asheville doesn’t have one, either. “Ultimately, though, I strongly believe in arts councils,” she says. ‘Arts councils can be like the chamber of commerce, where they incubate businesses, ideals and creativity. They can provide training, professional development, resources and advocacy.”

Whatever Wilmington comes up with in the future, Wells suggests clean and precise planning. “Organizations should develop where there is clear need,” she explains. “There is a will to address those needs. So whatever the mission is going to be, that forms the agency.”

Wells understands the struggles that Wilmington art advocates are feeling, and compares it to the fight she had to endure over arts education last year. She learned in the process just how hard those fights can be without a plan. “It’s a really tough time for people who aren’t well-organized to try and get local public dollars,” she says. “It’s probably one of the worst environments to try to do that. On the state level, it would be like trying to fight the arts education battle without Arts NC existing. It would be impossible.”

So Wells encourages those wanting to organize to come out to the workshop and learn a few things to move forward. “I hope that people leave with a change of mind and heart, believing that this is something that they should be doing, can do. Instead of seeing it as ‘one more thing to do’, they will look forward to it.”

She’s also hoping to recruit strong members for the state level movements. With plenty of projects coming up in the future for Arts NC, Wells wants to include as many residents as possible. “We will have a sign-up sheet there so people can be in the info loop and call-to-action loop. We hope that these individuals who went to the workshops will respond with what we taught them.” She says these issues concern us all and hopes the event will draw a diverse crowd. “This workshop is for anybody who loves the arts…educators, volunteers, board members, artists, business people who believe in the arts…it really spreads to all corners.”

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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