SAAC’s Bateman speaks at Rotary

Executive director for the Starkville Area Arts Council John Bateman explained the importance of creating art initiatives throughout the city during Starkville Rotary's weekly meeting. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)
By: 
LOGAN KIRKLAND
Staff Writer

The executive director for the Starkville Area Arts Council John Bateman explained the importance of creating art initiatives throughout the city during Starkville Rotary's weekly meeting.

During Bateman's presentation, he stressed the importance of the arts and how it can directly affect the community it supports. He presented numbers for the most recent Cotton District Arts Festival and reported 40,000 people attended the festival.

The number of people listed led to a total of $12,890 in tax revenue from one festival. He said the gross sales, not including hotels and restaurants, totaled out to $184,148.

Bateman said 23 million people came to Mississippi for tourism in 2016, which produced $6.3 billion in business. Although not divided into different categories between athletics and arts, Bateman said this is a perfect example of how the arts can benefit the state and the Starkville community specifically.

Bateman said "art is a business" and sometimes needs to be treated as such. He wanted to show how much SAAC can contribute to a growing community.

"The arts and culture scene is very amorphous and it can be kind of vague as to how it benefits," Bateman said. "So I really wanted to get people thinking in terms of ‘oh there is a tangible connection it's just sometimes difficult to see."

SAAC not only provides events like Forks and Corks, Art in the Park and a few others, but also looks to award art and education grants. These grants will help provide teachers with funds to buy art supplies, which are not normally funded for the classroom.

Bateman said SAAC is also going to provide college and summer scholarships. Through these scholarships, he is looking to fund young artists to help pay for summer programs and auditions.

"This is an opportunity where we can really help those at a disadvantage obtain these opportunities to grow and to get exposure and to build these skill sets," Bateman said.

Bateman said he is looking at ways to begin an immediate change on how arts interacts with the community. Some of these techniques include improving communications through blogs, newsletters and adding diversity.

One immediate change or "low hanging fruit" Bateman wants to focus on is having public art and murals for the city. He said he is currently having conversations with Mayor Lynn Spruill on making this a reality.

"It can have a ripple effect that can really help the community," Bateman said.

Other new ideas Bateman is looking to implement is a public reading project, an under 40 exhibit and workshops to help teach artists business tactics to help increase visibility and stability.

Bateman said the purpose of his presentation was to express how the arts adds an important dynamic to a community. He said an organization like SAAC, can serve as an umbrella organization to help bridge the gap between the different organizations.

"You need an organization that can connect the dots, that can identify not only where organizations can work together but opportunities to expand in the arts," Bateman said.

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