November 30 Coffee Hour Speech

Speech given at the November 30, 2017 Arts and Culture Coffee Hour at Savannah Coffee Roasters.

Good morning.  Thank you, everyone, for being here.

For those of you who are new, my name is Patrick Kelsey, and i serve as the facilitator for the arts and culture alliance of Chatham county.

If you are unfamiliar with the alliance, the original purpose was to promote and advance the arts and culture industry in Chatham county through positive public policy change for the betterment of economic impact, job growth, quality of life, education, and overall community creativity.

But, after meeting with many of you at the last coffee hour, we all realized this alliance has the potential to help unify an industry. It’s more advocating for better public policy.  It is about advocating for and improving the promotion of the entire industry to both our elected politicians and the general public.

In this room, you represent numerous disciplines, interests, profit motives, etc.  But, at the end of the day the one thing we agree on is that we all want to see a strong, vibrant, and prosperous arts and cultural scene.  

Arts and culture transcends all borders.  And, as they say strength in numbers and i do indeed believe that is true.  With your help, we have the ability to achieve what goals we set for ourselves.

First, a thank you to ArtsGeorgia for their ongoing support and to graduate student Jennifer Berghhorn for her help today.  If you’re not familiar with ArtsGeorgia, visit www.artsgeorgia.net and show your support for the arts in the State of Georgia.

I need to do a quick shout out to an old friend of ours celebrating its 100th birthday . . . The war revenue act of 1917.  Through this act, we have the charitable deduction.  Of course, this charitable deduction is up in the air with the proposed federal tax reforms, but hopefully — or more like optimistically — it will still have a strong role in the fabric of our society.

Before we discuss the elephant in the room, i want to provide an update for you on some other alliance developments.

At the federal level, with support from ArtsGeorgia, the arts and culture alliance will be a grassroots sponsor at the 2018 arts advocacy day.  We’ll be walking the halls of congress lobbying for pro-arts and culture positions when it comes to federal public policy.  If anyone is interested in arts advocacy day, let me know.

At the state level, Georgia is one step closer to being number one for being last in per capita arts funding. 

I have a legislative meeting with state representative Craig Gordon, and state senator Lester Jackson on the 8th and will do my best to advocate for more funding for Georgia Council for the Arts and more small business financing or incentive options for artists and organizations.  If anyone wants to join me, again let me know.  

The tourism leadership council is open to the formation of a new arts and culture committee.  The committee can be used for undertaking festivals, events, or other promotional activities. 

As a committee of the TLC, it provides the legal and other organizational infrastructure without having to recreate the wheel.  What they need is paid and active members of the TLC to make this happen. 

I have already reached out to about a dozen arts and culture-related organizations that are TLC members.  I’ve heard back from one so far, but if anyone else is interested, let me know. 

Should this new TLC committee become a reality, it might be in place for a summer or fall 2018 festival or event celebrating all the arts and culture that the Chatham county has to offer.

Speaking of the county, at the county level, on the one hand, i am not having the greatest luck with the commissioners or the county manager.  The message communicated to me was to come back in February when they are discussing the budget.  My question, though, was what was the county’s position on arts and culture.

On the other hand, i did meet with staff at parks and recreation, and i see a lot of potential there.  They are extremely interested in more programming and especially programming for our youth, and youth not just being the youngest citizens. 

Using their community centers, parks, pavilions, and other venues for classes, camps, performances, or even installation art is all right up their alley. 

Also, they are building two new outdoor amphitheaters at the L. Scott Sell Park in the far south-side of savannah and the Tom Tripplett Park in pooler.  Neither will be huge, but big enough for small-to-mid size gatherings.  Perhaps perfect for a travelling troupe?

They are very interested to see more programming at the new memorial stadium too when it opens.  (just be sure it is outside of football season.)  This could be concerts, performances, etc.  Think about this and let me know if you have questions.  I’d like to set up a meet and greet between you and them at the start of the new year.

Yesterday, i met with the coastal indicators coalition.  If you’re not familiar with the coalition, they are a group that monitors various metrics in the county to help build a better community through data-driven decision making. 

The downside today is that they do not currently measure anything directly related to arts and culture. On the upside, though, the opportunity does present itself to incorporate some new metrics to leverage data to help influence public policy decision making.

Early 2018, i am hoping to pull together the coalition and members of our industry to explore this further.

Also in early 2018, probably late January or early February, the alliance will begin a series of capacity building workshops. 

The first workshop will focus on the foundation of any organization, the board of directors.  The workshop will cover board recruitment, management, and good governance best practices. 

This may be held in conjunction with a networking function to bring together organizations wanting new board members and those wanting to serve on a board. 

Consider it speed-dating, board-style.  If you want more information on this when the time comes, let me know.

Before i completely lose control over this coffee hour, i have two more housekeeping things. 

Please like and follow the alliance on social media, sign up for the mailing list, and share with your network. 

To make this alliance successful it is all about getting the word out and i need your help to do that.  You can find contact info on the pen, card, or just visit www.chathamartsandculture.com.

Also, as i segue into today’s hot topic, i need for you to consider saving the date for Thursday, December 7 and 21 at 2 p.m. these are the last two savannah city council meetings of the year.  I plan to be there and will, i hope, address city council again this year.  Between today and the 7th though there is much work to do. 

And now, to discuss what is on all our minds; the city budget cuts.

This is the same situation we found ourselves in as last year, but in my interpretation it is more dire. 

I have already written to members of the city council, who are coincidentally in their own budget meeting at this very hour.  Also, i have already received a reply from a couple of the council members.    

I have on the table a handout with county and city contact information.  Take one and tack it to your fridge.  It’ll be posted on the alliance’s site after this morning. 

If you do not like what you hear or see as it relates to the budget or any other public policy decision, call or write your representatives today before it is too late.  Write your specific representative, both council members at-large, and the mayor. 

Understand that next Thursday the 7th they will read the proposed budget, and two weeks later on the 21st they will vote on the budget.  And, that’ll be it. 

This, in part, relates to why we are here today.  Beyond all the other cuts the city manager is proposing, $1.4m is being proposed to be cut that is related directly to arts and culture.  Half of the cut is the cultural contributions to which organizations have already applied for and to where the cultural affairs commissioners have already reviewed and made funding recommendations.  The other half of the cut is from the savannah history museum.  These were the only two obvious cuts that i observed when reviewing the budget. 

Oddly, these budget cuts are on the heels of the city council adding arts and culture to their list of priority sectors for economic development. 

At this point, I’d like to turn it over to you to give you an opportunity to ask questions and to discuss what is on your mind when it comes to the budget and arts and culture in our community.