Bonney Lake City Administrator Don Morrison wrote an article on Arts Commissions that was featured in a recent edition of Cityvision Magazine, a publication of the Association of Washington Cities.
Find the full article at www.awcnet.org (jump to p. 24) or read on below:
The Art of the Arts
Tips for creating effective commissions with limited resources
AWC Citywise (May/June 2017)
IS IT REALISTICALLY POSSIBLE to develop a successful arts commission when the city has little funding to contribute? Yes, it is. In 2014, the Bonney Lake City Council created an arts commission consisting of nine members, including youth representatives, drawn from various artistic disciplines. The enabling resolution spelled out the purpose and goals of the commission—an important step for any new commission.
One of the first orders of business was to develop bylaws and a work plan. Knowing that the city had limited funds, the arts commission members began partnering with established programs to leverage their work. In two short years, the commission has initiated and undertaken several activities, a few of which are listed in “Good Works” [image], with city arts commission financial support totaling less than $5,000. Here are some keys to establishing a successful arts commission on a shoestring budget:
- Provide guidance. Include the mission, purpose, and goals of the commission in the enabling ordinance or resolution.
- Create a “working” commission. Appoint commissioners willing to serve as volunteer staff and help with art-related projects and events. It is important to balance out the commission representation with various artistic backgrounds (e.g., visual arts, performing arts) so that the commission is not dominated by a single interest (e.g., painters).
- Provide early top-level staff support to ensure that the commission gets off to a good start and establishes a culture that is compatible with the intent of the enabling legislation.
- Establish commission bylaws addressing officers, agenda setting, meetings, conduct, etc.
- Develop an initial two-year work plan. The work plan can consist of things the mayor and council would like to see as well as things the commissioners themselves want to undertake. The Bonney Lake Arts Commission work plan is a table with columns for project/activity, description, year, priority, partners, key dates, project leader, and notes.
- Reach out to artists in your community through social media, networking, and other outreach. Word will spread.
- Encourage partnerships with other organizations to leverage resources. In Bonney Lake this has included partnerships with local nonprofits, including the Bonney Lake Historical Society, Beautify Bonney Lake, Kiwanis Club, and city special events (sponsoring art-related activities at summer concerts and Kid’s Club activities).
Every community has a different set of priorities and capabilities. But as the example of Bonney Lake shows, it doesn’t take a fortune to establish an effective arts commission—and the whole community stands to benefit.