Jefferson County Commission (AL)

County Arts Leadership

Each year, Americans for the Arts recognizes elected officials and legendary artists who have exhibited outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts at the national, state, and local levels. Americans for the Arts has selected the Jefferson County (AL) Commission to receive the 2005 County Leadership in the Arts Award. The award is jointly issued by Americans for the Arts and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to honor an elected county board or individual leader whose leadership and role in advancement of the arts and arts education within their community has provided heightened visibility to the value of the arts.

The Jefferson County Commission was the chosen winner due to their vision and leadership in endorsing a local cultural master plan and for raising their annual financial contribution to the arts by more than $3 million. The award will be officially presented to the commission during the annual NACo meeting in Honolulu, HI, on Monday, July 18, 2005. This is the first time that a county in the state of Alabama receives such an award.

The work of the Jefferson County Commission on behalf of the arts has helped make Jefferson County a national leader in promoting strong arts and culture programs. The commission is exhibiting visionary leadership in the state of Alabama by dramatically increasing funds to the arts and cultural sector while funds on the state level are declining. In 2002, the Jefferson County Commission appropriated funds to partially underwrite the development of a Cultural Master Plan for the Greater Birmingham Region. The Jefferson County Commission ultimately endorsed the findings of the Cultural Master Plan. Based on recommendations from the plan, the Jefferson County Commission increased its annual contributions to the arts and cultural sector from $1.4 million to $5 million and the commission designated the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham as its regranting agency. This move thereby established a transparent, open, highly accountable, and nonpoliticized granting process which includes participation by area residents. The Jefferson County Commission is leading the way for the 11 other counties and numerous municipalities in Alabama to provide support for arts and cultural activities. The Jefferson County Commission's appropriation is the largest source of funds for arts and culture in the state, appropriating 60 percent more than the state legislature.