Arts and Culture Summit a big hit with attendees

March 27, 2012

By Martha Martin, Editor

Vancouver Mayor Leavitt addresses an excited Arts & Culture summit crowd (photo Martha Martin)













This was an event that deserves the statement “You just hadda be there!”  The March 3  event, sponsored by the Clark County Arts Commission and the Arts of Clark County, as well as support from the City of Vancouver and Clark County Commission, was without a doubt the event of the year.

Those who planned the event, invited panelists, persuaded the Mayor of Vancouver to be opening speaker, arranged for a box lunch fit for the gods, and had the perfect facilitator in Ann Stadler deserve a round of applause.

Anne Stadler, facilitator, and Pat LaCroix, Clark County Arts Commissioner (photo Martha Martin)

There was room for 120 guests, and this event sold out the previous week.  I had friends call me the evening before, and were mightily disappointed to find out there was no more space.  “It never dawned on me that this would sell out”, said one friend.

Well, it did, and this was the first event like this in Clark County.  What does that say for the interest in Art?  If the quality of the crowd attending is any indication, it means that the arts are critical to our way of life here across the bridge from Portland, which we all thought was the mecca for the world of art.

Let me tell you about this day.  Since I participated in the all-day event, and also took pictures, the best place to tell you about this is right here in my corner.  It was exciting to connect with so many people that really care that we get our artists and art of all kinds in the forefront of our lives.

Here is how the day unfolded.

The setting was the newly refurbished Artillery Barracks at the Historic Fort Vancouver Reserve, generously donated by the Fort Vancouver Trust for this event.  Guests registered and found their seats, as the Summit began at 8:30am.

Mayor Leavitt opened the day with his charm, and  support of the arts.  We all enjoyed that he was up as early as we were, and on a Saturday.

Small groups share ideas and make new friends (photo Martha Martin)

Anne Stadler, the facilitator leading the workshop activities, got everyone’s creative juices flowing by having folks state their hopes for the day, out loud, and to the whole room.  She also encouraged people to be active, noisy, and then….she reminded folks of the Girl Scouts way of quieting a room; she raises her hand, and we all do the same as we close our mouths.  We were amused, but it worked very well throughout the day.

We gathered in small breakout groups of 3-4 people (I had Mayor Leavitt in my group), and we shared our ideas for getting art to the forefront in our communities.

Ideas flowed like wine; someone suggested getting refurbished trolleys for downtown areas, another said create museums and arts centers, and others said to develop collections of art, and we heard someone suggest having a gallery “without walls” that travels, and (you heard it here first) Mayor Leavitt suggested that Vancouver consider a 1% tax on new municipal construction for an art fund (which has been done in other cities).

Eloise Damrosch, Liz Cerveny, Denny Doyle, and Jack Hoffman lead panel "Cities Connecting with Arts" (photo Martha Martin)

Our guest panelists for the Cities Connecting with Arts segment were Eloise Damrosch, Executive Director for Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), Liz Cerveny, former Mayor of La Center, Jack Hoffman, Mayor of Lake Oswego, and Denny Doyle, Mayor of Beaverton.  These folks have already successfully completed several city wide projects to promote art, such as arts festivals, Concerts in parks, and partnering with local businesses by development of a Master Public Art plan.

Economic development was emphasized, with statistics presented regarding the amount of money people spend when attending art events; they agreed that the return back to business is ten-fold.  Pretty impressive.

Susan Courtney, Kelly Sills, Jan Bader, and Stacey Graham lead the Win-Win Business Partnership panel (photo Martha Martin)s

As with most workshops, there are additional “panels” that happen at the same time.  I attended the “Win-Win Business Partnerships” panel, with moderator Kelly Sills, Economic Development Manager for Clark County.  Panelists included Susan Courtney, former owner of the Hidden Restaurant and owner of Courtney Consulting, Jan Bader, Program and Policy Development Manager for the City of Vancouver, and Stacey Graham, CSO and EVP for First Independent Bank.  The discussion centered around how business is enhanced by having a vibrant art culture, which creates an attractive community that inspires people to choose this area to live and work.

Lunch time arrived, and we had a fabulous box lunch provided by Simply Thyme Catering.  We ate with gusto, and then Anne got us all thinking again with a new activity; this time, we were the creators and facilitators.

Arms go up, mouths close at the Art & Culture Summit (photo Martha Martin)

Break-out sessions topics were posted on the wall by those that had a strong desire to “teach” something that was close to their heart.  Those that were interested could sign up to participate.  This is where is really got interesting, since the folks doing the facilitating were as passionate as those that attended.  Discussions did get heated, as ideas bounced around each room.  The energy was electric, and people were involved at their core.

Several groups made plans to continue to meet beyond the Summit, taking what they learned and bringing it into their communities.

Creative energy flows as summit participants work together (photo Martha Martin)

Anne lead us all in a presentation of our break-out sessions, and we heard what everyone experienced.  She facilitated an exercise called “Dekaaz”; getting us all to state simply and precisely our group experience.

I will reiterate; you had to be there.  This was an experience that touched all senses, and we all learned tremendously  from each other.

Here’s to next year and another Arts and Culture Summit….with this kind of wind in our sails, it can only get better.

Thanks to the Clark County Arts Commission, the Arts of Clark County, the Fort Vancouver Trust, the City of Vancouver, and the Clark County Commission for their support and sponsorship of this event.