Terry Marks was only a few days into her new job as CEO of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance when she was presented with the completed Comprehensive Arts Strategy, commissioned with the help of her predecessor and signed off on by just about everyone who had a hand in it.
Happily, Marks, who assumed the role when John Collins retired in March, agreed wholeheartedly with every aspect of the four-point plan and added her name to the list of satisfied signees.
The 24-page document was made public Wednesday evening in a ceremony at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, attended by leaders, staff members and volunteers from the city’s visual and performing arts groups, both major and minor.
“Our thriving arts scene is also a critical economic driver,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said in his introductory remarks. “Just ask any of the new businesses that have relocated here from places like Silicon Valley and New York. One of the big reasons you’ll find them in St. Pete now is because we are a community of artists – a community that values arts and culture.”
Initiated last fall, the Comprehensive Strategy is a joint effort by the Downtown Partnership, the City of St. Petersburg and the Arts Alliance to map out a methodology not just for keeping the high quality of culture healthy, but to nurture and grow it.
It does this through four identified areas – Enhanced Collaboration, Purposeful Communication, Dedicated Advocacy and Funding and Benchmarked Progress.
Dozens of hours of interviews were conducted by strategist Karen Eber Davis, by way of focus groups, one-on-ones and collaborative events and workshops. Members of the extensive steering committee were present at Wednesday’s introductory event.
“If you think that this is a detailed, prescriptive plan for the next five years, you’ll be disappointed,” said Downtown Partnership CEO Jason Mathis, one of the key figures in the creation of the strategy. “It would be stupid for us to do something like that, because we know that things will change. Things will evolve over time.
“But what it does create is a skeletal framework for us to build on in the future. So if you read the strategy and think ‘Well, that’s not perfect, that’s not what I would do’ or ‘my organization isn’t represented here the way I would like it to be,’ great. You’re right! Help us take this to the next level. Help us truly put the meat on the skeleton of this frame, and take this arts community that we are all so fond of to the next level.”
It is not, Mathis insisted, “a needs assessment, a complete database or a marketing tool,” although successful marketing of St. Petersburg as an arts town is certainly included in the strategic layout. “It’s a strategy not just written by artists for artists, it’s a strategy that truly included the whole community.”
Marks addressed the fundraising aspect of the strategy, announcing that a public/private partnership had already raised $100,000 to address the initial goals.
“We are a city that is rich in its diversity,” she said, “with raised consciousness about equity, inclusion and simply caring for each other. Art draws us together and allows us to communicate. We know what is the truth, and art represents that in such a powerful way.
“This living strategy that we share with you is meant to grow with us, to respond to the needs of an arts and culture community. It is our city of the arts that’s evolving. It requires us to be a city of one, collective, unified voice. It requires us to take action. So let’s embrace a common purpose, a greater good.”
View the Comprehensive Arts Strategy here.