February 2, 2012

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The co-chairs and steering committee of Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 unveiled the city’s arts and culture plan on Tuesday during a celebration and presentation at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre with more than a little fanfare.

After a nine-month process, the committee has selected Allied Arts to serve as the guiding force for the plan, approved on Dec. 7, 2011, which covers broad ground and imagines, as expected, a great deal—or “lots of more,” as Allied Arts president Dan Bowers put it during an interview with The Pulse prior to the event.

Since March of last year, the committee has been conducting meetings and evaluating input from a wide range of participants from both emerging and established arts and cultural groups, organizations and individuals, wading through sticky stacks of Post-It Notes and incorporating ideas into an outline for the future of the arts in Chattanooga.

What has emerged from that blender has now been handed to Allied Arts, a mission which has given the arts umbrella organization new focus and purpose as it moves forward to connect the myriad arts and cultural organizations with funding, support and direction.

“The plan is a start, not an end,” said Bowers. “It’s more philosophical. There’s not a lot of specifics. The plan is not a directive, but a guide. Our challenge is to keep it from landing on a shelf.”

Spearheaded by co-chairs Ruth Holmberg and Tom White, the 20/20 plan reflects its name, Bowers said. “Twenty-twenty is perfect vision, but it’s also about looking forward—and part of it is a dream.”

Bowers and Allied Arts communications director Rodney Van Valkenburg touched on numerous ideas the plan seeks to implement or influence—from such broad arenas as economic development, diversity and regional inclusion, to targets of direct impact, such as strategic investment in developing an arts incubator and a quality mid-size performing arts center.

More immediately achievable, Bowers said, is the launch of an online community arts calendar that would serve as one-stop source for events and activities. “I think that’s something that could happen within the first year,” he said.

Intentionally sweeping, the plan casts a wide net and aims high, and hopes to build and expand on the foundations and cornerstones stretching back decades that have brought the city its reputation as an emerging arts haven.

“The big ideas that emerged from this process,” said Van Valkenburg, “are identifying our differences, the need for inclusiveness and community involvement. It’s about the arts for all, infrastructure and sustainability.”

The old cultural norms don’t apply, added Bowers. Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 asked, “What can creativity, arts and culture do for our community?”

The answer?

“We know what arts can do for a community, and this plan represents our common vision.” he said. “Look at cities like Asheville (N.C.). The locals had to appreciate the arts before the city became an arts haven.”

Read the plan online at imaginechattanooga2020.org or on its Facebook page. Progress reports will begin in June.

February 2, 2012

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