Communities in West Virginia and many parts of the country have demonstrated that a robust arts community can be a strong catalyst for economic development and growth.
A successful arts community provides a rich cultural life for all members of the community and supports a “creative economy” by attracting twenty-first century businesses and the well-paid and educated work force that comes with them.
A successful arts community provides an environment that supports the overall economy, attracts tourism and revenue, and provides income for artists and artisans, which is returned to the local economy.
The common element of successful arts communities is an arts council, an independent, broad-based umbrella organization that supports an organized, active, and broadly cooperative arts community.
In August 2009, The Berkeley County Arts Council was formed to meet this need in Berkeley County, West Virginia.
Communication + Collaboration = Opportunity
The Berkley Arts Council’s communication infrastructure starts with its web site at www.BerkeleyArtsWV.org, which is its official web site. Integrated into the web site is a blog berkeleyartswv.wordpress.com, which is updated on an ongoing basis to provide timely news and information about the Council’s activities. Reaching out to the larger community, the monthly email Berkeley Arts Bulletin provides consolidated communication to the public and within the arts community about public arts events and opportunities for artists in Berkeley County and the surrounding area.
Starting with the first steps in planning the Berkeley Arts Council we have reached out to individuals and groups in an effort to build collaborative relationships. Partnerships with organizations such as ArtBerkeley, The Apollo Civic Theatre, and The Heritage Craft Center have united the key arts organizations to a common purpose. Collaborative relationships with other arts and community organizations have delivered dividends in the form of expanded arts experiences throughout the community.
Opportunity is the powerful result of effective communication and collaboration. The Berkeley Arts Council works continuously to expand opportunities for artists to perform, display and develop their art forms and to provide members of the community greater opportunities to experience the arts in all of its forms.
In July 2013, in anticipation of entering its fifth year, the Arts Council opened the Berkeley Art Works, a new gallery, activity center and arts education facility in downtown Martinsburg, West Virginia. Located at 116 North Queen Street, the refreshed space supports a variety of art exhibits, an artist cooperative, small special events and a range of arts-related instruction.
The new facility brings many new opportunities for local and regional artists to show and sell their work, expanded opportunities for the community to experience different types of art and through the Council’s Art Instruction and Workshop Program, to learn an art form for themselves.
The Arts Council’s Arts in Education program expands opportunities for students in Berkeley County schools to experience and practice artistic activities and learn through the arts. With the support of the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and the Eastern Panhandle Community Foundation, the Council collaborates with schools and teachers to bring artists into classrooms to teach and demonstrate various arts disciplines and apply those disciplines to core curricula as well as the arts curricula.
The Berkeley Arts Council’s funding efforts have brought significant new resources for arts programming into Berkeley County. The Arts Council has applied for and received grants from the Commission on the Arts, The Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation, and several corporate sponsors.
The “Amplify the Arts” Grant Program, with funding from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, provides opportunities for local arts organizations and even individual artists to receive assistance for small arts projects that would not otherwise be eligible for state funding.
The Berkley Arts Council includes in its program services for working artists and artisans. The classes and workshops in the Council’s Artisan Resource Program offer opportunities for Artists and Artisans to develop and improve the necessary skills to promote their art and run their businesses.