Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Valley of Light" By Linda Sommer

What Art Does

Today is the 27th annual National Arts Advocacy Day, the only national event that brings together a broad cross section of America's cultural and civic organizations. These arts advocates represent a united effort to tell Capitol Hill how important the arts are to our communities, how much arts education means to our children, and how the arts improve our daily lives. It inspired me to share a recent story of how the arts impacted me.

I lost my father three weeks ago, and even though I was back to work, I was having trouble seeing people. At meetings and on phone calls, everyone wanted to tell me how sorry they were, and though it was comforting, it was also very painful.  Anyone who has dealt with a death knows that each person that remembers it to you cauterizes the wound; it’s part of the healing, but it really hurts.

I was avoiding just such an exchange; people gathering for a meeting at the York Art Association and all of them wanting to give their consolations and; buying some time,  I was slowly ambling through the gallery pretending to be engrossed in the show when something happened. A painting by an artist named Linda Sommer reached out from its place on the gallery wall among many others, wrapped its hands around my heart, and squeezed. Tears welled in my eyes as I stood transfixed in front of it; watching the dark brown and gray paint turn to cream and ivory at the top of the canvas. It was like watching my father’s spirit rise up from the darkness into the light.  The piece was titled; “Valley of Light” and I had to have it. I purchased the work, and walked into the meeting feeling buoyed by the condolences rather than burdened; it comforted me in a way that nothing before or since has been able to do.

When the arts have this power to grab us, to hold our hearts and squeeze them in a way that is very personal and profound, why do we feel that we have to justify its existence with other reasons? Why must every arts organization feel compelled to hold up the economic impact of the arts in their community as a reason for their importance? Why must we talk about the arts in the education of children and youth development as to why the arts matter?

I don’t disagree that these are very critical roles for the arts. As this article in the Wall Street Journal points out, arts and culture ARE a strong driver of economic impact; the arts contributed $504 billion to U.S. economic output in 2011, or 3.2% of gross domestic product. And yes, the arts are an integral part of education; a 2012 report from the National Endowment for the Arts, entitled “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth,” concluded that students “who have arts-rich experiences in school do better across-the-board academically, and they also become more active and engaged citizens, voting, volunteering, and generally participating at higher rates than their peers.”   These are important reasons to support the arts, and we should talk about them.

But none of that mattered when my heart was hurting and I was missing my dad. I didn’t care what the arts do for our economy or for education; I just wanted something to make me feel better. The painting I found by Linda Sommer did that for me. And that’s why I bought it.  I wasn’t trying to better the economy, I didn’t plan to use it as a teaching experience; I just felt I needed it to begin healing. That is what art does; it heals, it helps, it raises deep feelings that are hard to describe and completely personal, and we should celebrate it for that as much if not more so than for its economic and educational benefits.

Do you have a story to share about when an arts experience reached out to your heart and moved you? Then make sure to tell members of Congress by sharing your story of what art does for you on our Facebook page or on Twitter and tag it #AAD14 in honor of Arts Advocacy Day 2014.

P.S. If you’d like to see the painting; “Valley of Light” in person, join me at YorkArts one-night only art show “Art In Residence-Black and White Night” at the Bon-Ton Corporate Center on Saturday, April 26th. You can get your tickets here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bringing Our Theme Of "Create Community" To Life

Gary and Ryan of Hayman Studio with Kelley Gibson and David Kennedy (center)
at the voice-over recording for the 2014 campaign video

When I joined the Cultural Alliance of York County as the Director of Communications & Engagement a few months ago, my main task at hand was to take the message of "Create Community" for our 2014 Annual Campaign and bring it to life. Who is the Cultural Alliance? What do we do to benefit York County and its residents? How do we illustrate the ways that our eight partner agencies and the Creative Impact Awards develop lively neighborhoods, new jobs, and smarter kids? And how to we show our volunteers, donors, and the public that each and every one of them is vital in this effort to create community in York?

Instead of spelling it out in numbers and figures pointing to the impact that the Cultural Alliance and its partner agencies make on York County, we instead posed the bigger question; "What Makes A Community?" What are the pieces that are needed to turn a group of people into a true community, one that thrives on creativity and new ideas? We didn't want to tell people, we wanted to show them. To do that, we needed help.

We turned to Ryan Hayman and Gary Gearheart of Hayman Studio, gave them creative control, and asked them to tell our story. With their wealth of artistic talent, production know-how, and amazing skills they shot footage of our partner agencies and Creative Impact Award projects to illustrate how the Cultural Alliance creates community, piece by piece, project by project. These images are truly worth more than words; they get to the heart of what we do. We are honored to have worked with such great partners who truly captured what it means to create community.

We hope you enjoy this watching this video as much as we did making it. After viewing, please share it to spread the word and do your piece to help us Create Community in York!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How stARTSomething Invests Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Gifts To Transform Our Schools-BIG and SMALL.
As we near the end end of year, your company may be looking for options to donate their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) gifts. I wanted to share with you how those gifts enable stARTsomething Arts In Education to transform our schools through artist residencies.


Talented multi-media artist Justin Ayala and the supportive staff at West York High School came together in a 65-day artist residency to create a mobile mosaic mural embedded with technology-the first of its kind.  Almost 1,000 students and 90 faculty members used content from 14 classroom disciplines and 16 different art forms to design, construct and execute the mobile mosaics and the digital content.


Andrew Steed, gifted storyteller and teaching artist, joined the Central York High School student journalist team for a 10-day residency. The student writers were stuck, rigid, in their approach to  newswriting.

As Andrew led them through highly untraditional exercises, the students brainstormed new strategies to make the formerly “ho hum” school paper into a more interactive platform.  Students abandoned their traditional news gathering techniques and experimented with new ways of thinking/ writing.  After ten days, the paper added several new sections and the students reported new attitudes. “He was inspirational. He put a positive twist on everything—even some of our concerns,” said senior Prowler editor, Kayla Smith. “He helped us open our minds—not just with the newspaper, but with life in general,” said public relations editor Jordan Nittinger. 

EITC gifts enable us to make this difference in students’ lives – whether they are BIG or SMALL. Please donate your end of year EITC gifts to the Cultural Alliance of York County and its stARTsomething Arts In Education program!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Create Community

While I am excited to announce our 14th annual campaign "Create Community" I am even more excited that Joe Crosswhite and George Hodges are chairing it.  Their enthusiasm and strategies have energized us AGAIN.

We have a public community celebration on January 15 at 6:00PM at the Strand.  Our partners will be there and our Creative Impact Award winners from last year and this year (hint hint we will announce them from the stage).  It will be a true celebration of how far we have come in 14 years.  Not only are we still raising money and in-kind services for our partners, but we've expanded to designing the Creative Impact Awards that serves any artist, arts organization, or non-arts organization with a creative project throughout York County.  We funded projects all over York including the Hanover Lancers and New Freedom Heritage.  What a thrill for us to be able to fund in all corners of the county.

We are also an official partner with the Pa Council on the Art - that means we help grant state funds in four counties - York, Adams, Franklin, and Fulton counties.  We are also the Pa Council on the Arts' Arts in Education partner funding artists' residencies in the same 4 counties.  Gayle Cluck manages that program and has been recognized by the state for her distinct and effective residencies.

So - here we go - and it is not a "oh, here we go, ugh" it is a true "HERE WE GO".  Come to our celebration of our creative community on Tuesday January 15 at 6:00 PM.  We have an awful lot to celebrate!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I am so tired of this hot weather - I feel loggy all the time.  The only thing that gets my energy up is granting money....while I love raising the money, I adore giving it away.  Cannot wait to see what we get in preliminary grants for our Creative Impact FOCUS Awards due August 16.

We are also giving away funds as part of our Partnership with the Pa Council on the Arts.  Four counties, York, Adams, Franklin, and Fulton  will receive a total of  about $22,000 in state money through the Cultural Alliance.  We are meeting on August 20 and I can't wait to see what happens.  Stay tuned....

Speaking of August 20, we have a dine-out fundraisier at the White Rose Bar and Grille.  Come out and support the Creative Community and eat well.  White Rose has always been a wonderful supporter of the Cultural Alliance so I want to encourage everyone to support them and us on August 20.  Call me for more information.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Creative Impact Awards

I am so excited about our Creative Impact FOCUS Awards  that give bigger pots of money to one or two selected projects.  You can read all about it on our web site.

Our board decided to pick two FOCUS areas and had Al Weber conduct a planning day to get everyone's feedback.  We arrived at Making Downtown York livelier and Arts Education for Children throughout the County.  We think directing our money towards these two areas can really have an Impact. 

We had a meeting this week for potential grantees with great turnout.  We are excited to see what collaborations (a requirement of the grant) come about because of the funding.  We are not asking people what their project should be, just that it Focus on these two areas.  There's some talk of the grant even being funded for three years.  I hope that really inspires creative planning.  Stay tuned to see what comes from our first FOCUS awards - and call us if you want to find out more.  Preliminary grants (white papers) are due on August 16.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Art Truly Means

Here is a blog about Pat Potter's experiences!

Picture this - It's 6am on a cool March morning, no one else is up yet. The house is quiet except for the hum of the furnace. The sun has yet to show it's early light as she turns on the lamp to the den where her big mirror sits, propped against the wall waiting for her like an old friend. She dons her ballet shoes and begins the morning's practice, holding onto the back of a chair as if it were her own personal ballet barrre. Slow tendus are her subject this morning, as controlled and perfect as she can, toes pointed, slowly moving her delicately bowed foot to the side in a precise, predetermined route... each time a little better than the last.
As she watches herself in the mirror, she doesn't see an eleven year old girl practicing one of the most basic of ballet movements. In her mind's eye, she's on stage in front of thousands of people performing her favorite ballet, The Nutcracker. Her head is filled with the cacophony of sounds coming from the orchestra pit. The lights are warm and bright as the other dancers move around her seemingly effortless. She floats across the dance floor and off into the stage wings and has to quickly change into another costume before going back onto the stage. She is alive in a way only she can feel... she is dreaming of her future.
This scene plays out every morning in many homes, including my own. My daughter's chosen art, dance, has impacted her life positively in so many ways. She's learning discipline, time management skills and how to be a part of something larger than herself. She's learning how to deal with success and failure in a positive and healthy way. She's learning how to be a strong, confident young woman who values her body and her mind and realizes that she has something unique to give back to society. She may graduate from her dance school and never step foot on another stage but the lessons she learned there will stay with her throughout life, indeed enhancing her life in a way that is both valuable and quantifiable.
I realize I'm partial to my own child's artistic journey and art form but, this can be said for any art that one participates in wholly regardless of age. The ability to pull from oneself that which is our essence, our passion is the true function of art, a function from which our society benefits. We are the sum of our experiences and when an art form is part of that experience subset, we are made better by it.
I can wax philosophic about this topic for hours but most of us who work in the arts can attest to the fact that those who participate in artistic endeavors report that it positively affects many other aspects of their lives. There are a multitude of studies which support this sentiment, so why aren't the arts garnering more support? There are many reasons, but I believe the onus falls on us to advocate for change. We are not elitists, rather we are humanists and it's up to us to change the stigma and educate society of the importance of art in our lives.