Unifying and promoting the arts
ZANESVILLE – In 2020, the Muskingum County Planning Commission released the 2020 Muskingum County Comprehensive Plan. The plan looked at every aspect of the county and set a path for the county to move forward.
One of those included the creation of the Muskingum County Arts Council, and the Muskingum County Commissioners set that plan in motion with the allocation of $10,000 for a study to determine the feasibility of a council in the county.
An arts council would bring together all of the various groups and types of artists, and create a group with one unified voice, said Kelly Ashby of the Zanesville-Muskingum County Chamber of Commerce. A council would be “a unified, focused voice whose sole purpose is to promote the arts in Muskingum County,” she said. The council would represent every facet of the arts, from the visual to the performing and all genres in between.
The groups already representing the arts in the area are run by volunteers. The vision for the council, Ashby added, is to eventually hire a full-time employee or staff. “That is the difference,” she said. “There are fabulous volunteer organizations doing wonderful things for the arts” in the area. However, “If you are a volunteer and have a full-time job, you only have this much time to focus on your volunteer work.”
The model works well in other communities, according to Ashby. It would help build on events already established in the area, like the Y Bridge Arts Festival, and First Fridays. The council will lead “focused efforts to promote Muskingum County as an arts destination, but also promote it without our community,” Ashby said. It also helps attract grant dollars.
Kristy Szemetylo, president of the board of directors of the Zanesville Museum of Art, and Ashby recently presented an outline of a plan to Muskingum County Commissioners Mollie Crooks, Melissa Bell and Cindy Cameron. They said they hoped to raise $15,000 to pay for a study to determine the need for and implementation of an arts council in the county. With donations for $5,000 already promised, the funding commissioners set the process in motion.
The council would be made up of artists, businesspeople and members of the local government. “You have to have people who understand money and economics, and have a director to implement the goals of the organization,” Szemetylo said. A leader would also give the organization accountability, she added.
In November Szemetylo contacted arts councils in Piqua, Tuscarawas County and Springfield. She asked when each council started, how they are funded and function. She compiled a report for the commissioners, which included an outline of ArtsinStark, Stark County’s version of an arts council.
“I’m really glad Kristy did that research,” Ashby said. “We were like yes, we should bring this here.
“It got us excited, you could see there are communities our size doing this, and it works. There are people excited about the arts, there are organizations like this out there, and we as a community have as much to offer as those communities. Ashby said.
Ashby said the group who worked on an initial plan will be in touch with a consultant soon to begin the year-long study.