Deborah Edward came to Sacramento from Austin, TX, where she has tackled similar projects. She was the co-founder and executive director of the Austin Children’s Museum, consulted on that city’s CreateAustin plan, helped launch mindPOP – an arts education program—and she has consulted on arts projects in California, Russia, and Czech Republic. She has a PhD. from the University of Texas at Austin, where she has taught in the LBJ School of Public Affairs. A Fulbright Scholar, she continues to consult on projects in Eastern Europe.
What exactly is your charge in this new position?
My role as Project Manager for the For Arts Sake Initiative is to coordinate implementation of the ambitious regional plan created by the Sacramento community in 2010. The recommendations that emerged from a series of community meetings and committees focus on strengthening support for arts, increasing public participation in arts and arts education and helping artists in their professional development and career success. As a member of the mayor’s team working on his priority initiatives, I am responsible for convening, communicating, galvanizing attention, and otherwise finding ways to enlist community partners – individuals, civic groups, businesses, arts organizations, arts supporters, and others – in making Sacramento a place where the arts flourish. This means enhancing the visibility of the great and diverse art happening in the region, finding better ways to help families and the public connect to the arts, and helping people utilize the available resources to strengthen all things creative.
What is the basic philosophy behind this push to support the arts in Sacramento?
Arts are not only a way for people to express themselves and communicate, they are also an economic engine for a community. A community full of art is a community that is vibrant to residents and visitors, a community that can attract new people to the workforce, and a community that has pride in its creative resources. Arts equal jobs, prominence, economic prosperity, and respect for diverse cultures and heritage.
The mayor’s commitment to the arts is not only about the arts for their own sake, it is about how the arts promote economic prosperity and creates a signature city known for its creativity. Most importantly, a city full of arts provides opportunities for young people to dream, to express themselves, to explore careers in the creative sector, and to be inspired to succeed in school and in life.
What aspects of the charge do you expect to be the easiest and the most difficult?
A major goal is to identify and secure additional public dollars dedicated to support a sustainable, enterprising art community. This is challenging in these tough economic times when everyone is seeking additional revenues for priority needs.
The easier recommendations are those that rely on individual champions and civic engagement to move forward in creating an online directory of spaces for arts in the region – thank you David Pier and his Action team! – in getting a better sense of the needs of professional artists – thank you Ann Lucas and her colleagues – in creating ways for artists and audiences to meet one another and find common interests and pursuits – thank you Michelle Alexander, Urban Hive, and Creative Capital Cooperative.
The Arts community in Sacramento is active but somewhat separated into camps: theater, music, film, dance, visual arts, etc. Do you need x plans for x communities, or one plan that draws them all together? Or a little of both?
There are many cross-cutting issues – access to training, access to business tools, access to space, access to capital – that can be addressed across disciplines. There are a number of issues that need to be worked on within a discipline, such as getting a calendar of all the wonderful film festivals in town. This is a three-to-five-year implementation effort that will start with building trust and connections and continue into finding ways to work together on common issues.
You’ve been a Sacramentan now for approximately four months, so you’ve had a chance for first and even second impressions. How are we doing?
Having a great time discovering all things Sacramento. Barely brushed the surface thus far. Love seeing the energy in the galleries and artist studios, getting introduced to theatre in downtown Sacramento and Davis and beyond, and in attending arts everywhere everyday for everyone. Sacramento has a thriving arts community, a long-term commitment to theatre, especially musical theatre, and an amazing culinary arts scene. Young people are taking advantage of the creativity of the area and coming out for all sorts of arts-related things. I got here after the new Crocker opened, so I see it as something that is a national treasure, without being able to compare it to what was there before. My family has been surprised at the variety and depth of the arts all around here. And by the way, the city’s bike paths are superb! I believe that Sacramento has all the ingredients for success as a signature creative community and has for whatever reason been somewhat shy about touting its resources. There’s lots of energy to be more recognized and to attract attention and talent. Love being part of this!