Monday, November 21, 2011

Artists, Don't Ever Sell Yourselves Short

Here's an adapted version of the speech I gave at the Mayor's Arts Awards last Thursday night:

It’s been my privilege twice to present these awards to outstanding contributors to the arts here in Ventura. You’d think by now we would be past calling ourselves “California’s New Art City,” though I have to admit I’m a bit hesitant to call ourselves “California’s Old Art City”.

After all these years, we’ve begun to make a real impact in the arts – and the arts have begun to make a real impact on Ventura in more ways than I can count. As I prepare to leave office, my message to the artists and their supporters in this town is pretty simple:

Don’t ever sell yourself short.

I know that’s a funny thing to say, but artists have a tendency to sell themselves short – and then get mad because other people also sell them short. But don’t forget all the different ways that the arts help us.

In the business of running our city, we try to do three things. We try to create prosperity for our community. We try to improve the quality of life for people in Ventura. And we try to improve our sense of community and our sense of place. Everything we do is about one (or more) of these three goals; and the arts are vital in accomplishing all three.

We tend to speak generally about how the arts are good for residents of Ventura because the arts have the power to inspire and fulfill us; and we speak even more sweepingly about how the arts helps the economy because of the number of paintings and tickets so, and the spinoff effect, and so forth. But I want to take a moment to make these things more real.

Everytime somebody comes into contact with the arts, you are touching them – and you are changing and improving our community.

Every time a child creates something in school, and realizes that they can create, and gains confidence as a result, that’s you at work.

Every time somebody is moved and gains new insight into themselves and the world by experiencing art, that’s you at work.

Every time somebody is inspired by a piece of public art to renew their commitment to our community, that’s you at work. It doesn't matter whether commitment is a commitment to the arts -- it can be any renewed commitment to our community.

Every time somebody comes up with an idea for a business or a product, and uses creative thinking skills to figure out how to make that business or product a success, that’s you at work.

Every time somebody decides to move their business to Ventura – or keep it here – or expand it here – because the quality of life and the things Ventura has to offer are important, that’s you at work.

All these are examples of you at working helping us to achieve our three basic goals: prosperity, quality of life, and sense of community. So don’t ever sell yourself short. Don’t ever stop reminding yourselves – and reminding us – that the arts work every day, in every venue, to help us achieve our most basic goals as a community.

Thanks to all of you for what you have done. It has been my privilege to serve this community for the last eight years on the City Council and for the last two as Mayor. I hope I can continue to work with you in enhancing the arts – and leveraging the power of the arts to achieve our other community goals – for many years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for taking the discussion of the value of the arts beyond simplistic rhetoric and abstractions to more specifics.

    As a poet, I often feel like I'm creating in my own small world. Then when those words get out there, and people tell me how much a poem or a phrase means to them and expresses what had been "unexpressable", I am reminded of the power of the arts.

    Thank you, Bill, for using your positions of influence to support the arts over the years.

    This Thanksgiving I am grateful that we in Ventura continue to have a thrive arts community (no matter what the marketers want to call it!)


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