Local Arts Agencies
How to Start a Local Arts Agency in Your Community
Thinking of starting a local arts agency? The first and most important question is “Why?” Is there a community need for an LAA? If the answer is a resounding yes, then here are a few tips of starting an LAA for your community:
Get the Big Idea
- Determine what your community wants out of the LAA and how can the LAA enhance their needs and boost the current programs and services offered. You could do this via a survey on a free, web-based survey provider or by in-person interviews with attendees at arts-related events in your community.
- Determine if the local arts agency will be a private entity or public body embedded in the local government. Keep in mind that individuals cannot establish a public local arts agency alone. However, individuals and concerned groups do have cultural votes and can, by public demand, approach the local government (mayors, county commissioners, city council members, and other representatives) about starting a public LAA.
- If a private LAA works best for your community, determine what business model is right for you. Traditionally, these local arts agencies are established as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with a governing board of directors. However, there are a myriad of business models that may work for a community.
Do Your Homework
- Familiarize yourself with legal requirements to start a new organization.
- Determine the cultural political climate and how the arts are supported by community leaders.
- Pinpoint monies that are used or could be used.
- Conduct a census of arts organizations and artists who live or work in the community.
- Look for people who support the arts and who are sympathetic to the significance of communitywide cultural awareness and involvement.
- Attend communitywide meetings. Listen to what is being said and by whom about the arts and the community.
- Find the community’s priorities and its interest in the arts and cultural life of the community.
- Contact the staff at Americans for the Arts, the national organization for local arts agencies.
- Educate local officials and heighten the public awareness to the cultural needs, benefits, and spectrum of possibilities.
- Increase the level of the public’s involvement with every aspect of existing or potentially existing activities/programs.
- Create a strong and broad-based support system of people.
- Acknowledge those that have helped your efforts and have aided the cultural community in the past.
- Lobby and work toward the development and passing of a city ordinance or the establishment of an official mechanism/office for public cultural support.