Before we learn how to spell, we know the joy of a fresh sheet of construction paper. Before we know how to write a book report, we are given paints and plastic scissors. And long before we walk across a stage to accept a diploma and enter the workforce, we have drawn our family pet, painted trees and suns, and learned the lyrics to “Wheels on the Bus.”
Art surrounds us at a young age, helps shape who we become, and influences how we view the world. But, sometimes, some of us forget just how integral art is in our lives. We forget that when we listen to music, we’re listening to art. We forget that when we read a book, magazine, or a poem, we’re reading art. And when we go to the movies, we’re watching art.
That’s why the Arts Council of Kern’s mission is to advocate for, to create access to, and to provide education in the arts for residents and visitors to our county.
“Unfortunately, people are thinking of how we can save money now. They’re not thinking of the longterm repercussions of taking arts education out of schools,” said Arts Council of Kern Interim Executive Director Laura Wolfe.
Still, there is hope at the Arts Council.
“We recently became an affiliate of the National Young Audiences Arts for Learning network,” Wolfe continued. “We received a grant which provided some seed money for us to move forward with our goal of bringing arts back into schools—either with a one-time assembly for the whole school or workshops with artists in residency.”
This means the the Arts Council will have some support for, at least, the next five years. It’s great news. The organization can use funds to support the programs and projects it deems valuable to our area.
For example, the Best of Kern Concert Tour. Throughout 2010, the Arts Council, with support from the James Irvine Foundation and other sponsors, sought out the best musicians in Kern County. Then, 39 of the top applicants were auditioned to be part of a musical tour. On this year-long journey, the musicians played at local venues and were professionally recorded and filmed for a documentary. It was a chance for our entire county to celebrate the diversity and the richness of regional music, as well as introduce musicians to venues, promoters, and new audiences.
Another program, Creating Community, was developed by local artist Nicole St. John. Creating Community works to teach other local artists, from various generations working with different mediums, how to be curators and put on shows with a community angle.
“Each show has a nonprofit partner,” Wolfe explained. “And each show has a theme. An artist will get funding, they’ll do the work, and we’ll put on the show. Then, fifty percent of the proceeds go to the artist, twenty-five goes to the nonprofit partner, and the other twenty-five comes to the Arts Council.”
The next show is slated for sometime in the summer.
But well before locals will get the chance to view that work, they can join the Walk for the Arts.
On May 14, 2011, teams of community-minded, art-loving residents will come together downtown, at Mill Creek Park, and have a rousing time, all to the benefit of the Arts Council.
“The plan is to build from last year—it was such a success,” Wolfe said. “We’ve been encouraging people to join groups and support their school of choice. All the money they raise will go to that school’s art programs. We want people to see the expanding arts scene downtown—everything along the walk route will be open. People are even free to go inside the Bakersfield Museum of Art.”
And that, alone, is worth the $10 entry fee (a fee that includes a participant t-shirt).
“The day will be a complement of the visual arts, music, and dancing. We’re even asking teams to dress as creatively as they can,” Wolfe added. “And we are partnering with Bike Bakersfield, which is also having an event in the park on May 14. They are having their family day with lots of fun stuff and we think this will really add to the Walk for Arts energy.”
Last year, the first year the walk was held, 300 people participated. This year, the Arts Council is hoping to top 500.
The more people who know about Arts Council programs, the more potential support these programs will receive in our area. For example, maybe folks don’t know about the Outside In Project, where local artists in all disciplines work in teams to provide mentoring experiences to artists with developmental disabilities. Or the Kern Film Workshop, a vocational training and enterprise development program for emerging film makers, based on Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Film Company.
Those are programs that could use funding. And while most of us understand the value of art and while most of us appreciate art on a daily basis, it’s time to show our support. Especially for local art.
Because, as Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.” Thankfully, the Arts Council of Kern is here to provide our community with those colors and shapes.
Visit kernarts.org or call (661) 324-9000 for more information.