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City Manager's Blog

Learn about the City of Roanoke from the City Manager's point of view.

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Jun 04

Art For the People

Posted on June 4, 2018 at 1:49 PM by Whitney Slightham

Sidewalk Art Show

“I suggest that the great art belongs to all people, all the time
that indeed it is made for the people, by the people, to the people." - Maya Angelou


I had the opportunity this past weekend to attend the 60th Annual Art Sidewalk Sale put forth by the Taubman Museum of Art.  What a spectacular example of the art that our community has to offer.  Roanoke has long been a supporter of arts and culture. Residents and businesses come together to make art, support art, patronize museums, and celebrate what culture adds to our quality of life.  Arts and culture in Roanoke includes events such as the Art Sidewalk Sale, but also ballet, opera, the symphony, galleries, museums, public art installations, hip hop, graffiti, and so much more.  Arts and culture have contributed to the vitality of our community since the Roanoke Academy of Music was founded in 1892, and the establishment of the music and jazz clubs on Henry Street in the 1920’s. It continues today with innovative programs and events, such as the Writer on the Bus series, the public arts project, and the Local Colors parade and celebration.

A Plan for Arts and Culture

A few years ago, the City, in partnership with many individuals and organizations, developed a plan to guide the development and nurturing of arts and culture in the city. This plan promotes:

  • Development of our economy
  • Increase the livability of our community
  • Foster an environment of lifelong learning, participation and education

These three areas serve as the foundation to achieve the vision established in the plan – “Roanoke as a vibrant and prosperous community where innovation in arts and culture engages people in all aspects of life while contributing to sustained economic growth and development”.

The City has dedicated significant resources to the promotion and sustainability of arts and culture in the community, including dedicated staff, grants that support organizations engaged in arts and culture, setting aside specified funds to support a public art program, and providing significant funds in support of a cultural endowment.  These investments recognize how arts and culture positively impact Roanoke’s economy by increasing the enjoyment and livability of our city.

As in so many cases, the City has focused its efforts at the neighborhood level.  Support of the enhancement of the Grandin Theater, the inclusion of public art in neighborhoods, and the support of murals throughout the city are but a few examples of investments that increase the quality of life and attractiveness of the City and its neighborhoods.

Education has long been the top priority in Roanoke with more public funds dedicated to it than any other public service.  The role that arts and culture play in lifelong learning, participation, and education is an important aspect of this priority.  Long-standing support of museums and organizations focused on learning and education, paired with public art projects, such as the Little Free Library and Writer on the Bus, are all examples of the City’s commitment to supporting this priority. 

The Economic Benefit

Since 2010, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission has completed an economic impact assessment of arts and culture in Roanoke.  This week the latest version of this assessment was presented to the City Council.  The assessment highlighted that arts and culture organizations employ at least 700 people with a total payroll approaching $7 million, and that over 2,000 volunteers contribute more than 67,000 hours to these same organizations.  The assessment also indicated that attendance at events produced by these organizations approached 500,000, generating nearly $36 million in new sales activities for the regional economy. 

The Future

I am confident that Roanoke will continue to be a strong supporter and promoter of arts and culture, and that each of us will recognize the significance it represents in our economic strength, the livability of our community, and our educational objectives.  We all benefit from a strong and vibrant arts and culture scene in many ways, so let’s get out and enjoy all that the City has to offer!

- Bob Cowell

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