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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition being dissolved

The Atlanta Regional Commission announced today that it will be assuming "the role of the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition (MAACC), to promote the Atlanta region as a premier center for the arts and culture."

Over the phone, the ARC's Grace Trimble explained "MAACC is going away; it is dissolving and we will take their assets and begin performing some of their duties." Exactly which duties remains to be determined.

Years of studies and resounding community feedback for more support for arts and culture resulted in the commission voting this week to incorporate arts and culture into its regional planning efforts. MAACC had been a two-person operation until CEO Flora Maria Garcia announced her departure from the nonprofit agency in late April. Garcia is leaving Atlanta for Florida where she'll lead the United Arts of Central Florida in Orlando beginning May 29.

The release announcing Garcia's resignation hinted at a future partnership between the two organizations that has now morphed into a consolidation effort:

During the past year, she and the MAACC staff partnered with the Atlanta Regional Commission conducting major research on Creative Industry data and co-hosting public forums on the value of arts and culture in economic development, regionalism, education and quality of life. Plans are underway to conduct the first regional cultural master plan, through the ARC.

As usual, the common refrain throughout the ARC's press release was the notion that a vibrant arts and culture scene is "a true economic driver and quality of life measure for our residents." A popular talking point these days, but also a true statement, and backed by plenty of studies. Just last month, in fact, a study by Americans for the Arts' Creative Industries research project revealed that Atlanta is home to the most arts-related businesses per capita in the nation. But funding for the arts, I noted in an April column, is ridiculously meager compared to other top-ranking cities.

One of Garcia's and MAACC's main focuses was advocating for HB 1049, a penny sales tax for arts bill. Trimble says she doesn't know if HB 1049 will remain on the agenda with the ARC.

The news of MAACC's dissolution comes during a sea change in local old school arts leadership throughout the city, county and state.

The rundown and some thoughts from a blog post I wrote last month detailing the revolving doors after Acting Deputy Director Ife Williams announced her departure from Fulton County Arts & Culture, which left that ship more or less unmanned:

The musical chairs continue in the Atlanta art community.

Acting Deputy Director Ife Williams will be leaving Fulton County Arts & Culture effective May 22. Williams took on the interim position when former Director Michael Simanga left in December 2011. Soon after, Simanga was appointed CEO of the National Black Arts Festival, a position that had been vacant since Neil Barclay resigned last November. Even though its budget has declined significantly in the last five years, from approximately $4 million to $1.5 million, FCAC remains one of the largest public granting organizations in the state.

Last week Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition CEO Flora Maria Garcia announced she'd be leaving next month to head up United Arts of Central Florida in Orlando. And yesterday, the board of international art mag ART PAPERS sent notice of longtime editor/executive director Sylvie Fortin's departure.

Additionally, Woodruff Arts Center (the largest cultural organization in the state) CEO Joe Bankoff is retiring in May and South Arts Executive Director Gerri Combs has announced that she will retire in June of this year.

Sheesh. Who's running this thing? I dunno, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe there's an opportunity here to tap some of the young, entrepreneurial talent that's helped buttress the city's cultural life over the last few years and contributed to its current status as the city with most arts-related business per capita nationwide. They seem to know how to make things happen with little or no money.

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