When you think about the word “arts”, an image of a crayon drawing from grade school may appear in your mind. Perhaps the image of someone dancing appears, or you may picture novels and photography. The beautiful thing about the arts is there is no single right answer. The poet, the dancer, the muralist, the author, and the composer all inspire and challenge us, giving us a chance to heal, connect, and have a conversation together.

Arts connect us. Across the Roanoke community and between neighbors, we can get closer to each other through the arts. Surviving tough times isn’t something anyone should do on their own. Through the arts, we can find our resiliency and begin to recover together as a community.

Arts Connect Us to Healthier Lives

Resilient communities are made up of creativity, culture, and neighbors alike who know the importance of working together to keep the community healthy. Arts Connect is a way to speak about the collective impact of the arts and highlight the collaborative, resilient, and innovative roles arts and culture organizations play in our community.

The City of Roanoke’s Arts & Culture Coordinator, Doug Jackson, explains the inception of Arts Connect, “Here in Roanoke, we continue to look at the arts through a community development lens. The arts are a critical piece of our community. The conversation has been ongoing for some time, but we’re pushing now to heighten awareness and explore together what all the arts can do and are doing to improve our lives.”

Collectively, our community is aligning our arts and cultural assets to foster engaged neighborhoods, lifelong learning, and a strong regional economy. How? Think of the scenario where an employer is debating on whether to set-up-shop in the Roanoke Valley, potentially providing numerous jobs for our community members. The more Roanoke is able to strengthen and connect its neighborhoods and communities, the more likely it is that jobs will come to Roanoke. Roanoke’s City Plan 2040 incorporates some of these tactics and strategies as a means to build our local communities.

Community Engagement

When asked about how members of our community can get involved with the arts, Doug explains “Through this Year of the Artist, any individual from our community can come to us out of the blue, even during a committee meeting, and give us their plan; we invite that sort of participation in the arts, in our neighborhoods, and in our city.”

As a citizen, anyone can be involved and support this initiative through engagement and outreach. Community members can engage in the arts; whether it’s pausing to appreciate a local art piece around town and sharing it on social media — or convincing a creative friend to share their ideas. Getting involved with local nonprofit organizations to advocate the arts is another approach to support the Arts Connect initiative.

Community organizations connecting Roanoke through the arts are welcome to join in by sharing the Arts Connect message in their respective work. Public, private, and nonprofit sector partners helping to build a strong community through the arts are encouraged to participate.

6-Part BUZZ Series: ARTS CONNECT Roanoke

The Roanoke Cultural Endowment (RCE), in partnership with the City of Roanoke, is facilitating the exploration of how the arts connect us. This strategy utilizes American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant funds as an investment to develop collective storytelling tools around collaborative arts and cultural events, strategies, and challenges.

To help tell these stories, RCE contracted with Buzz4Good to produce six episodes of BUZZ, a Roanoke-based public television series that features nonprofit organizations receiving free marketing resources. This unique 6-part BUZZ Series: ARTS CONNECT Roanoke, highlights the innovative and engaging nature of arts and cultural organizations as well as the contribution of the arts and humanities. The six episodes will explore the many ways the arts connect our community. They feature the collaborative Roanoke Arts Pop! celebration, the role of the arts in healing and health, as part of high-quality education, in fostering a strong economy, and in effecting change in the community.

Moving Forward

The last couple of years have had their fair share of adversity; the pandemic, increased awareness of inequities, conflict overseas, and inflation. The arts are being deployed on a variety of levels, including our local neighborhoods, to help us broach our toughest challenges together. “There are many components to the Arts Connect message,” says Doug. “I hope to live in a community where every resident can tell you how the arts are affecting their life – and there are a lot of ways that’s possible.”

To accomplish this task, we have to ask ourselves “How does art connect us to the best of what’s inside ourselves, to our neighborhoods, to a new resident of the community, to the global economy, and to each other?”

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