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‘Focus on the Arts’ shows unity

They represented different cultural influences in Springfield and its surrounding areas. But the theme of Friday’s “Focus on the Arts” luncheon at the downtown Courtyard Marriott, sponsored by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, was one of unity.

Representatives from several of Springfield’s leading arts organizations gathered to talk about the present and future of arts in the area.

Among the panelists were: Larry Coressel, President of Springfield Stageworks; Ann Forescue, Executive Director of the Springfield Museum of Art; Tim Rowe, Managing Artistic Director of the Springfield Arts Council; Kevin Rose, historian for the Turner Foundation who also represented Hartman Rock Garden and Westcott Center for Architecture and Design; Stu Secttor, Executive Director of the Clark State Performing Arts Center; Marta Wojcik, Executive Director and Curator of Westcott House; and Robyn Zimmann, Executive Director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Together, the panelists’ organizations had combined budgets of over $4.5 million per year, according to Mike McDorman, chamber of commerce president and CEO who gave opening and closing remarks.

The discussion was moderated by Ted Vander Roest, executive director for Springfield Foundation.

Looking at the signature events for these organization leaves an impression of a rich arts heritage. Among them are the Summer Arts Festival, which in its 48th season is believed to be the longest-running free admission program in the country; the Westcott House Walking Tours; and the Springfield Museum of Art Ball.

Looking at the future, some challenges were shared, and others were unique. Fortescue, Secttor and Coressel said that funding is extremely important to their organizations. Unique challenges were shared by Wojcik (“so many ideas, and not enough time and hands to execute them”), Rose (awareness), Zimmann (“the changing landscape of how music is consumed”) and Rowe (how to make arts interesting to the younger generations).

But most of the panelists agreed that “community engagement” was one of their most important challenges.

McDorman summed up those thoughts by saying that the arts will flourish or flounder depending on the support it gets from the community.

“We as a community are most important to the success of this group,” he said.

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