Yesterday, Jasper Magazine took great pleasure in endorsing Andy Smith for the At-large seat on Columbia City Council. Today, we bring you more of why we made this decision via the words of the candidate himself. Please read, share and, most importantly, VOTE! - Jasper
Those of us who live and work deep within the arts community know first hand why what we do is essential for our city. Having moved well beyond an “artists are good because they make the world pretty” mentality that relegates arts funding to boom-time icing on government budgets, we know that artists and arts organizations are critical agents of change, economic drivers and unique problem solvers.
I decided to enter the Columbia City Council race for the At-large seat because none of the other candidates were prepared to advocate for a more innovative and thorough investment in our arts community. If we are going to shape a more progressive and prosperous future for our city, it’s essential that we have leaders who understand how to best support and best utilize our artists and arts organizations.
At the top of my priorities will be the commissioning of a city-wide cultural plan. When serving as a grant panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts earlier this year, I learned that they give more weight to applications that reference a city’s cultural plan. By failing to develop a robust plan, we are leaving money on the table for our arts organizations and I’ll work to fix this.
The plan will not only help with external funders, but will also help us shape priorities as a city and a community. It would be my hope that during the planning process we would look at pressing issues we all face, including access to studio, rehearsal and performance space, racial diversity in the arts community, and shrinking funding sources.
Our plan should then be used as a guide as we work to reform our H-tax distribution process. I’ll fight for multi-year funding for established organizations and events in order to make the process more efficient, while also working to make sure funded organizations are making real progress towards the goals we set together.
While I will be a strong defender of our community, I’m also going to push us to step up to do more for our city. If we are going to ask for more support, we need to step and better demonstrate our value to the people we serve. I want to push for our artists and arts organization to get more involved in economic development initiatives, after-school programs that keep kids in school, and in place-making projects that make our city more vibrant and livable. By doing great work, that not only demonstrates great skill but also has a demonstrable impact on our communities, we can develop an even more robust and thriving arts sector.
Though the arts were my entry point into municipal politics, I’ve worked hard to not be pigeon-holed as just the “arts candidate.” Similarly, I want us as a community to step up and show that we understand that our work is powerful and important in ways that transcend traditional understanding of our sector. Smart investments in the arts make our communities stronger, more prosperous and, yes, more beautiful.
Thanks to Jasper Magazine for their endorsement. I’m looking forward to joining Columbia’s City Council soon so that we can get to work developing the vibrant and creative city we all deserve.
- Andy Smith