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Same State, Different Story

Where Do You Turn?

Imagine you are a kid that lives in a small town of 2,500 people and you want to learn how to draw, paint and create visual art. Your school doesn’t offer any visual arts programs and even if there were private classes offered, your parents can’t afford to send you – where do you turn? Well, if you were lucky enough to live in York, Alabama you could find your way to the Coleman Center for the Arts and ART CLUB.

Started in 2008 by the Coleman Center for the Arts as a summer program, ART CLUB was incredibly popular with both students and parents. In fact, it was so popular that they wanted the program to go year-round. But budgets have been tough the past few years and center director Shana Berger wasn’t sure if they could stretch the program into something that would be sustainable in the long term.

Then they received federal stimulus dollars. Coleman Center director Shana Berger stated, “The stimulus funding allowed us to keep our program of high quality at standard frequency, and to make up for expected monies we lost because of the economic downturn.”  Not only did the stimulus funds help the Coleman Center make up for money they lost but in keeping this year running smoothly it gave them time to plan for the future – ensuring that the education program is around for a long time to come.

Now students meet with instructor Garland Farwell, a former teaching artist in New York City for twenty years, three days a week. Regardless of experience level students are taught about the visual arts but also history and culture from around the world during their time with Farwell.

And since the stimulus funds are keeping ART CLUB moving forward, the Coleman Center has been able to focus on all of its other work, like community outreach. Most recently the center brought the city together with a community sing where everyone in attendance sang traditional American folk songs. Neighbors found they sang the same songs with the same words but to different tunes and styles – now they are coming together to combine their music styles with traditional Indian music to create a sound that represents all of them.

Amazing things like what is happening in York, Alabama are happening all over the country from Dubuque, Iowa where the Bell Tower Theatre has provided theatre education to local children and produced a children’s musical that sold out all ten performances to the Kansas City Symphony in Missouri that continues to perform for all members of the community by hosting small ensembles in local libraries and other community venues.

It’s why your senator’s vote matters. Voting for stimulus funds means voting to allow kids the chance to participate in the arts, it means bringing communities together, it means generating revenue.

Yet, in Alabama that doesn’t seem to be enough for both of their senators to support the arts. It’s the same state but it’s a different story when it comes to support for the arts with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) supporting the arts and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) failing the arts. Alabama isn’t alone either – in Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) all received an A or B on the Congressional Arts Report Card. But each of these states also had a senator who failed the arts with Charles Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) all receiving an F.

These senators share a state so how can they have such a different story when it comes to the importance of the arts? Let them know that you are paying attention by sharing the Same State, Different Story via Twitter or Facebook with the links below and help get the word out.

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Paid for by the Americans for the Arts Action Fund (www.ArtsActionFund.org)
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