CAIRO — The Grady County Board of Commissioners was briefed Tuesday morning by a delegation that said local officials should consider forming an arts committee.
Michelle Dean, Pope Store Museum executive director, and Dana Willis, studio director for FIRM Dance Company, told the commissioners that they believe a flourishing arts scene like Grady County’s is a valuable resource — if only local officials were there to offer their support.
To make sure local leaders are present for showcases and performances, Dean suggested the creation of a new position or committee which can keep track of upcoming events.
“There needs to be a position that speaks collaboratively,” she said. “There needs to be a group of people that works with the government.”
Grady County Administrator Buddy Johnson suggested that Dean and Willis take the initiative to form an arts council similar to one in Miller County that can help communicate upcoming events to local officials.
In the model Johnson described, the arts council would be headed by citizens and business owners and would communicate directly with the city and the county to keep them aware of upcoming events.
“I’m sure there will be some things we need to work out between the county and city and how we do it,” Johnson said. “Of course funding will always become an issue and that’s something we’ll have to talk about as a group, but initially it’s nothing but a communication tool between what’s going on in the art world.”
Johnson offered to connect Dean and Willis with sources in Miller County who could offer advice as to how such a council can be formed.
“I totally think that this is a good conversation,” the county administrator said. “I think it is a plausible, easy to put together communication system and that we need it.”
Dean and Willis made a similar presentation last week before the Cairo City Council, where they suggested the city, county, Chamber of Commerce and private sector work collaboratively to promote community events.
In Dean’s view, local government can help stimulate social, cultural and economic development in Grady County by supporting the arts and historic preservation.
Dean highlighted her own Pope Store Museum, which has been added as a feature destination by the Atlanta High Museum of Art, and Willis’ FIRM Dance Company, which recently placed highly in a competition against more than 600 other teams.
FIRM’s annual production will take place in two performances on June 14 and 15 at the Cairo High School auditorium, and Dean said the occasion presents an opportunity for local leaders to show some support, but she also noted that the city will be hosting a conflicting event at the same time.
“To have some event scheduled that literally competes for kids is just absolutely mind-boggling to me,” she said.
Dean said she believes the conflict wouldn’t have occurred had there been some communication between the private sector and city government.
Rural communities across the state are thriving or dying based on the local arts scene, Dean said, and Grady County is no different.
What Grady County has as its advantage is its history and a pool of young talent, but Dean said that can all go to waste if even local leaders aren’t taking the time to put them in the spotlight.
“I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine an open-wide city dance being scheduled on a football night,” Dean said.