The central hub for the local arts community, ArtsPartners brings together a diverse range of partners… and the entire region benefits.
If you attend music, dance, theater or other arts activities in central Illinois, you’ve probably heard of ArtsPartners. If you’re an artist, arts leader or arts participant, you’re likely very familiar with our organization, as we work with so many of you each and every day to support the arts as a vital component of this region’s economic and cultural environment. And yet, you may not be aware of our full range of programs and initiatives—and their impact on our quality of life.
Thanks to a portion of the hotel, restaurant and amusement tax allocated to us by the Peoria City Council, ArtsPartners exists to build awareness and strengthen the arts as an economic catalyst for the Peoria area. We bring attention to the many opportunities for entertainment and culture in central Illinois, and help artists and arts venues achieve greater success—expanding their audiences and connecting them to opportunities for sales, grants, collaborative partnerships and other assistance.
But the benefits of our work belong to everyone—not just those directly involved in the arts. Ultimately, ArtsPartners serves the entire community, helping to attract and retain creative, young professionals in the Peoria area and deliver the proven economic benefits that can be derived from the arts.
“Illinois’ vibrant and diverse arts sector is an economic engine that generates jobs, transforms our communities, and is a magnet for attracting talent, tourists and investment to the state,” declares Ra Joy, executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois. “Key to the strength and success of the arts sector in the Peoria area is the work of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois.”
Over the last year, ArtsPartners collaborated with Arts Alliance Illinois and Americans for the Arts on a project to measure the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations on the regional economy. The nationwide study, Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, showed an estimated $20.4 million in direct annual spending by these organizations and their audiences in the Greater Peoria area—spending which supports 850 full-time-equivalent jobs, generates $18.6 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $2.2 million in local and state government revenue. That’s quite an impact.
This was the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted in the United States, and locally, ArtsPartners was the trusted liaison, coordinating data collection from a range of sources. This ability to bring different groups together has brought additional visibility to the region. “ArtsPartners has played a leadership role in forging strategic alliances with elected officials and public agencies, which has resulted in a deepened partnership between the Peoria community and the National Endowment for the Arts,” Joy notes. “Our efforts to elevate the presence and importance of the arts across the state would simply not be possible without the partnership and support of ArtsPartners.”
When the Illinois Arts Council, Arts Alliance Illinois or National Endowment for the Arts wishes to interact with the local arts community, ArtsPartners is the essential connector. Likewise, when it comes to connecting arts organizations to one another—as well as to individuals—we are a natural fit. In fact, it would be difficult to effectively reach the entire Peoria-area arts community without the organization. But we do just that in a myriad of ways, including a series of publications and newsletters, weekly radio spots on Peoria Public Radio and WOAM, as well as a popular television series that’s been airing on the local PBS affiliate over the last year.
“When WTVP was conceiving a project on local, regional and statewide arts and artists, the problem was how to find, evaluate, select, contact and videotape the artists,” says WTVP President Chet Tomczyk of the Art in the Works series. “Who had the contacts, the expertise and the creativity to make this happen? ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, of course. As a result of this creative partnership, a grant from the Illinois Arts Council was received. We could not have done it without ArtsPartners.” In fact, the program was so well-received that it was recently funded for a second year of production.
ArtsPartners also represents the local arts community to all of Illinois—and beyond. In June, I attended One State Together in the Arts, the only statewide multidisciplinary conference for arts leaders, advocates and practitioners in Illinois. This year’s conference was focused on how the arts can help build and revitalize our communities, a theme which ties into a number of our initiatives. I was able to promote the Peoria area and distribute copies of the ArtsPartners book, Art Lives in Central Illinois, to a number of leaders who said they would like to emulate this publication in their own cities.
Over the years, ArtsPartners has convened a variety of meetings and workshops to advance the arts.
In 2009, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman kicked off his “Art Works” national tour in Peoria, visiting several local arts organizations, holding an economic roundtable with key city leaders, and participating in an hour-long public Q&A session. The same year, ArtsPartners hosted the aforementioned One State Together in the Arts conference, bringing more than 300 arts and community leaders from across the state to Peoria—and generating nearly $100,000 for the local economy. Neither of these notable events would have happened without ArtsPartners.
On several occasions, ArtsPartners has facilitated grant-writing workshops that have helped dozens of area arts organizations obtain grant money. We also facilitate meetings of local arts groups to build collaborative partnerships. Earlier this summer, when Jim Wetherington, general manager of the Peoria Civic Center, wanted to explore the potential of partnering with the arts community on a new event, he turned to ArtsPartners—and we delivered. More than three dozen people from a range of groups turned out to offer their input on the development of a community-wide arts festival—unlike any the Peoria area has ever seen—in the summer of 2014.
Likewise, when Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy for Americans for the Arts, came to Peoria in March to unveil the results of the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study, only ArtsPartners could assemble representatives from the wide spectrum of arts organizations across the region to participate in an informative session at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Were it not for ArtsPartners, Peoria would miss out on a lot of these opportunities.
Through our roundtable meetings and discussions, ArtsPartners listens to the needs and goals of our local arts community, and works to provide them the resources they need to succeed. One significant need is the ability to offer online ticket sales, but the software is often expensive and complex to maintain. ArtsPartners facilitates this process for local arts groups; to date, we have helped garner over $170,000 in online ticket sales for the local arts community.
Another important need is for publicity, but that can quickly get expensive. ArtsPartners works with local media outlets to help publicize events and arrange for reduced-cost advertising. In another instance, ArtsPartners partnered with magician Mitch Williams on a workshop entitled “Marketing and PR for Creative Professionals,” and this month, it will sponsor an intellectual property seminar for local artists.
Dick Marsho of the Central Illinois Jazz Society praises the assistance offered by ArtsPartners. “Admission for [our] concerts is low-cost and free for students, so that these events are affordable for a broad audience,” he says. “As a result, we operate on a shoestring. ArtsPartners is essential because they create opportunities to help the CIJS and other arts organizations. ArtsPartners delivers impressive benefits to this region and its arts organizations—especially considering how small their own expenses are!”
ArtsPartners Benefits the Community!
Finally, ArtsPartners is often asked to lend its expertise and represent the arts community in a variety of local initiatives. When the City of Peoria wanted to consider a public art policy for the Warehouse District, ArtsPartners was called upon to help write a draft. ArtsPartners was asked by the City to assist with ideas for using the arts as a means to promote our recent All-America City Award. We are also providing the voice of local artists as the rules and regulations related to public murals are revamped.
Significant grant dollars flow into our economy as a result of ArtsPartners’ advocacy and connections. Working with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Peoria Park District and other partners, ArtsPartners recently helped to secure two national grants: a $50,000 NEA grant to create a plan to engage the underserved in an arts project that will strengthen South Side neighborhoods, and a $20,000 sustainability grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to devise an arts and culture plan that will help sustain the Greater Peoria region into the future.
ArtsPartners is among the best value propositions in the region—delivering all these benefits for less than $100,000 in annual expenses. While the return on this investment is difficult to quantify, a study by an MBA class at Bradley University found that ArtsPartners delivers benefits well over five times the cost. It’s a win-win for everyone—not only for those who create and appreciate art, but for the entire local community! iBi