A walk downtown amidst the growing number of galleries or a perusal through a listing of local events leaves little doubt that Springfield enjoys a vibrant local art scene. It’s clear that the arts add a great deal to the overall quality of life Springfield enjoys. However, growing such a large number of arts and cultural opportunities and integrating them into the daily life of a city and the region requires much more than brush strokes and dress rehearsals. Hidden somewhat behind the scenes, the Springfield Regional Arts Council (SRAC) has been a central building block in these efforts for close to three decades. Incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in 1978, the Springfield Regional Arts Council’s mission is “to develop, support, strengthen and make excellence in the arts accessible to all Springfield area residents. [They] provide leadership and support on behalf of the arts, with the goal of enhancing the quality of life, aiding economic development, and encouraging an environment that will serve the community and provide accessible arts education.”
The Arts Council’s special events have fueled the growth of area arts and cultural activities as a venue to bring these opportunities to a wider audience, as well as a useful fundraising device for the Arts Council and collaborating organizations. Each May, Artsfest occupies Walnut Street with a springtime celebration featuring the works of visual and performing artists along with arts and craft booths. It’s the Arts Council’s premier event. First Night Springfield offers family-friendly evening celebration to welcome the New Year. Along with these two community-wide celebrations, the Arts Council puts on a number of other events, either through collaboration or independently, that promote interest and generate support for a growing local arts scene.
“The Springfield Regional Arts Council, by offering leadership, training, and open communication, serves as an umbrella to arts and cultural organizations which ties in with its mission to develop, support, and strengthen these groups thereby making the arts available to all area residents,” says Sandra CH Smith, SRAC executive director.
The Arts Council has also furthered the cause of arts through a community-wide planning process. The Cultural Blueprint for the Arts was adopted in 1997. The plan featured a long term strategy for growing the arts community and incorporating the arts as “one of the building blocks of overall economic and community development.” The plan was recently revised and updated, and has been brought into the comprehensive Vision 20/20 plan for the continued development of Springfield and Greene County.
Part of that plan included creating a city hub for arts and culture. The arts community found its hub in a warehouse – more than one hundred years old – that was once home to the Springfield Creamery Company. The first phase of renovations at the Creamery Arts Center, a 35,000 square foot facility, were completed in October, 2005; although, the Arts Council and Springfield Regional Opera set up offices there before that date. Owned by the City of Springfield and located in Jordan Valley Park, the building also houses the Springfield Ballet, Arts Patronage Initiative, and the Community Center at Berry School. In addition to those offices, the building features ballet studios, classrooms, a costume shop, exhibition space, and additional studio space. Phase II of the Creamery renovations are now underway, thanks to assistance from Community Foundation of the Ozarks and private donors. This next phase will include new offices for the Springfield Symphony, additional classroom space, a library, a set building workshop, media rooms, and many other features.
As an Endowment Partner with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the Springfield Regional Arts Council’s fund is an important part of the organization’s future plans to expand the role and impact of the arts in the community. The arts add much to the quality of life in any community by bringing people together, giving citizens a sense of pride and identity within their community, as well as positively impact the economy and enrich education. The Community Foundation of the Ozarks is committed to supporting the arts for these reasons.
“Arts and cultural organizations make our community a great place to live and work,” says Addy McCord, SRAC Education Director. “These organizations not only serve today’s audience, but are actively growing tomorrow’s.”
For more information about the Springfield Regional Arts Council, including a schedule of events and classes available, be sure to visit their web site at www.springfieldarts.org.