Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arts Help Build Communities, Educator Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arts Help Build Communities, Educator Says

Article excerpt

Byline: Ivette M. Yee, Times-Union staff writer

Support your local artists.

So says Eric Booth, author, actor and one of the leading arts educators in the country.

Booth will be the keynote speaker at the 26th annual Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville Arts Awards on Tuesday, and will address a topic that couldn't be more timely for Jacksonville: How the arts can build a community. He will also share insights on the qualities that have helped other cities foster the arts (hint: supporting local artists is one of them).

With Jacksonville embarking on a downtown revitalization that includes a revamped modern art museum, and with arts leaders anxious to kick-start the arts scene here, there's no better time to listen up.

"It's not enough to just get the money to build and have the usual people take part," said Booth, who has taught at Stanford University and New York University and is currently at Juilliard.

Communities change, he said, when new voices, new concerns are considered.

Booth said the cities that have been successful at revitalizing their arts scenes have been so because they became aware of what mattered to their citizens and gave them reasons to go into arts venues.

"Every city that I have seen that has taken on this mission to really re-think why the arts are there and what they have to offer, once they get off the usual answers to those questions, suddenly the change started," he said. "It's not a matter of scaling down the quality of the arts offered, it's a change in the dialogue to find out what is relevant about art, what does the community care about in art."

This gives people a stake in the arts.

"It's a matter of relationship building and not just selling tickets; if you build a relationship, then suddenly people feel they belong in your building," Booth said. …

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