The Loudoun Arts Council is poised for a new future as "Loudoun Arts" The Loudoun Arts Council is at an turning point in its existence. It is time to reframe and revitalize our approach to supporting the arts and all the artists in Loudoun. We are presented with an opportunity to shape the future of the arts in Loudoun County, and we invite you to join us in this effort.
The LAC has been a volunteer-run non-profit for 33 years. Residents have donated their time and expertise over decades to help launch hundreds of projects, performances, exhibits and events, including Leesburg First Fridays, the Gale Waldron Excellence in the Arts Award, the Arts in the Village Gallery, and the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour. These unpaid citizens worked together to create a cultural identity for their community.
Although the LAC received grants in the past to support these hallmark achievements, over the last 20 years, public financial support for arts programs has contracted steadily. Federal support has decreased by as much as 49%, while state and local authorities have also cut arts funding substantially, even eliminating it altogether. In Loudoun County there is currently no dedicated income stream to support cultural projects.
At the same time, the rise of the “gig economy” — freelancers, contract workers, uber drivers, etc — adds further uncertainty to people’s lives by creating erratic working schedules. If you have tried to coordinate a meeting for a group of busy artists, you know how hard it is to find times when everyone is available. This staggered schedule has effects on communities, too. Where once almost everyone was off work at roughly the same times, modern e-commerce now proceeds, literally, 24/7.
In the past decade the LAC, like most of the US and other Loudoun County non-profits, has also seen volunteerism decline sharply. The LAC’s original bylaws called for at least 10 board members, but the organization has struggled to maintain enough volunteer members serve as officers, or to carry on with our many community grant and exhibit programs. While we maintain these programs are valuable, they are unsustainable. We need to work smarter to support the arts more effectively.
Despite these challenges, board members of the Loudoun Arts Council believe strongly in the original mission of supporting artists and the arts in Loudoun County. Perhaps what is needed at this point is a reimagination of this organization. In recent discussions about the future of the LAC, we have focused on the core responsibilities of an umbrella arts organization, one that supports art-making in all its forms throughout the county. To make that happen, we will need to build a bigger social network and create a stronger arts community.
We have four major goals for this new initiative:
Completing a comprehensive and easily accessible directory (with mapping for brick-and-mortar-businesses) including as many Loudoun artists and arts groups as possible and in as many disciplines as possible, so the public can find arts professionals and artists can find each other.
Launching an engaging series of community events designed to foster collaboration among artists, arts groups, neighbors, and business people.
Sponsoring Artist’s Residencies in Loudoun neighborhood venues (expanding our COLLAB program) to connect all Loudoun residents to arts-making where they live.
Offering grant funding (when and if possible) to groups with transformative ideas for improving awareness of and accessibility to the arts in Loudoun, and to recognize youth arts achievement.
Streamlining our organizational structure will help us concentrate on these goals, so at our Annual Meeting we would like to propose several organizational changes:
Abolishing Board Officers and their election and term requirements, and revising our by-laws to reflect our new focus on the above goals.
Establishing a Managing Committee of members in equal standing, which in turn can create ad hoc project committees.
Renaming and rebranding the organization as “Loudoun Arts.”
Changing our name will reflect our modern identity: a group representing all artists and all the arts in Loudoun. This will reduce misperceptions that we are a government-associated group, or an advisory body, while maintaining our powerful connection to our fantastic URL, “loudounarts.org.”
*We want to hear your thoughts about the future of the arts in Loudoun County. To learn more (including reports on our programs and finances) please attend our annual membership meeting on Thursday, November 7 at 6pm at Brambleton Library, 22850 Brambleton Plaza, Brambleton, VA 20148. If you cannot attend, pease email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jill Evans-Kavaldjian, President, Loudoun Arts Council