“We want to focus more on the strategic aspect of the group rather than the tactical aspect,” said Rochelle Murtha, a member of the Roswell Cultural Arts Board.
“When the Downtown Development Authority is discussing a project in depth or the proposed Frazier Street redevelopment comes up in planning, we’d like to have them consider where or how the arts can play a part.”
According to its mission statement, the board’s “principal purpose and responsibility is to study and make recommendations to the mayor and council concerning planning, financial support, services for and promoting the development of arts organizations, artists, cultural activity and cultural tourism in the city.”
But in practice, the board is somewhat insulated from elected officials, communicating with them through city staff.
While that process has worked well, Murtha said, board members believe the board would have more credibility and visibility if its voice wasn’t filtered.
“We would like a directly accountable relationship with the mayor and city council. Right now we are channeled through the cultural affairs department, then through recreation and parks, before anything arrives at the mayor’s desk,” Murtha said.
Board members would like to scrap the current city ordinance that creates and regulates the board and a new one adopted that expands board membership from seven to nine and enhances its capacity to accomplish goals.
One of those goals would be to have Roswell buy into the idea that one percent of the budget for every city project should be devoted to public art. Instead of artists’ work displayed only in local galleries, for example, it could also be exhibited in all public buildings, Murtha said.
In addition to the money annually budgeted by council to the historic and cultural affairs department for the board, board members are looking at creating a dedicated stream of revenue by raising more funds as a nonprofit, Murtha said.
City Councilman Jerry Orlans, council liaison to recreation and parks, said the next step will be a workshop with board members and mayor and council.
“I think they are trying to spread their wings and feel they have more authority and more direction,” he said of the board.
“And they feel that to do that, they have to have closer communication with us.”
Why the renewed focus on arts in a business climate that is just now starting to rebound from years of ill health? Because the vibrancy of a city’s arts scene can play a vital role in its economic health, Murtha said.
“Roswell has spent a good deal of time, effort and money for studies that show for a city to attract and sustain growth not only now but in the future, culture, specifically the arts, has always been a theme,” she said.