by Peggy J. Baggett, Executive Director, Virginia Commission for the Arts
Three years ago, the arts and cultural community of Virginia embarked on a great adventure. It began when the Virginia Commission for the Arts began encouraging the major arts institutions of the state to take a more active leadership role on behalf of all the arts.
One part of this strategy was to begin twice-a-year roundtables for the heads of the major arts organizations. In May 2007, they agreed that the arts community needed a high-visibility project to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of the arts in Virginia to state decision makers.
Those attending the meeting talked about the impact of existing collaborations within the arts, such as the popular gallery crawls, when multiple art galleries coordinate their openings. In many communities the art galleries have more visitors on that one day than during the entire month. This type of joint marketing seemed to be a good model.
The 23 major arts organizations of Virginia took the lead in selecting a theme, choosing a time period, and inviting all of the other arts organizations and all artists of the state to create programs on the common theme, in the common time period, with a statewide marketing campaign. Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts was born.
Why women in the arts? The group debated many themes but finally decided that women in the arts was so inclusive that any arts organization could develop at least one program for this theme. After discussion, the steering committee agreed that the theme should not be defined beyond women in the arts. There is no requirement that the programs must involve Virginia women in the arts or contemporary women in the arts or any other restriction. A community theatre doing an Agatha Christie play is as welcome as an orchestra commissioning a major new work by a living woman composer.
The group chose a time period for the run of the program—March 1, 2010, to June 30, 2010—that was then three years in the future so that organizations had time to develop their women in the arts programs as part of their regular seasons. The plan was to avoid additional program expenses for participating in the statewide initiative.
Through the regional meetings, through local meetings, through e-mail listservs, and through speeches and presentations at every possible opportunity, every artist in the state, every arts organization, every history museum, and every library was invited to join the statewide celebration of women in the arts.
On the statewide calendar, there are now more than 7,800 performances, screenings, readings, and exhibitions of 588 separate events by 260 entities, with more events being added every day.
The Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) provided $25,000 in start-up funds for the initiative. Altria, Bank of America, Dominion Power, SunTrust Bank, the Norfolk Southern Foundation and the Virginia Tourism office made financial contributions to the statewide marketing campaign.
The funding is for a professional marketing firm for the statewide promotion and for a part-time coordinator. The statewide marketing campaign includes a common logo; the website, which is closely linked to the state tourism website; an editorial/advertising insert in five city magazines; and promotion via public radio spots, billboards, Facebook and Twitter. The statewide celebration—MINDS WIDE OPEN: Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts—has received significant coverage in every daily newspaper in the state.
Our current First Lady of Virginia and every living former First Lady (10 in all) serve as honorary chairs of the statewide celebration.
Our partner, the state tourism office, has been so pleased about the early success of this initiative that the tourism staff pressed the MINDS WIDE OPEN steering committee to make a commitment, even before the women in the arts celebration officially began, to do a second statewide celebration in two years. In late January, the major arts organizations met and agreed to present, in spring 2012, MINDS WIDE OPEN: Virginia Celebrates Children and the Arts.
Come to visit us in Virginia before June 30 and attend as many of our wonderful Women in the Arts events as possible. If you want to know more about MINDS WIDE OPEN: Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts, visit www.vamindswideopen.com or give me a call at 804-225-3132.