The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council was selected to participate in a “virtual cultural think tank” with four other non-profit arts organizations.
The program Leading Organizations was developed and launched by Michigan-based Creative Exchange to bring a coalition of organizations together to brainstorm and create tool-kits for struggling communities nationwide. Creative Exchange is a national resource and storytelling platform aimed at promoting art and creativity in communities across the country.
Mitch Swain, CEO of the arts council, said he believes art can creatively address the local economic, social and cultural challenges facing these communities.
“Artists are often times the first people to walk into a blighted neighborhood and be willing to take over a store front or a building and do 24/7 construction for weeks and months," he said. "(They) make something interesting and all of a sudden people start to come into those neighborhoods.”
The more art revitalizes neighborhoods, he said, the more people start to flock to them.
“People in those neighborhoods start to benefit, because now there are ... more people on the street,” Swain said. “Streets become safer ... and more people get more people and it’s kind of a snowball.”
Art as a discipline has a way of bringing people together and creating shared experiences, he said.
“Art makes people feel good, it brings people together, it creates shared experiences that they can then talk about and compare," he said. "Because people experience things differently, you are able to then have meaningful conversations or experiences with other folks, whether you know them or not.”
Other organizations participating include the Macon Arts Alliance of Macon, Ga., Metro Arts in Nashville, Tenn., Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana in San Jose, Calif., as well as Creative Exchange’s parent organization, Springboard for the Arts in Saint Paul, Minn.
The coalition is set to have its first meeting Sept. 16 in Minneapolis.