[caption id="attachment_94550" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Sonoma County's creative sector of the economy is made up of nonprofit and for-profit organizations and individuals. (credit: Arts Action Plan)[/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- The county of Sonoma is making a sizable investment in the local "creative economy," adopting a strategic plan that calls for a new county arts agency to help promote artists and creative professionals.

One of the key recommendations in the 30-page Arts Action Plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is the formation of Creative Sonoma, an agency that would raise the visibility of nonprofit, for-profit, individual artists and creative professionals.

"The arts not only enrich the lives of individuals, (but also) arts enrich our community and economic vitality," said board Chairman David Rabbitt. "This plan helps us move our creative economy to new heights. Supporting our local artists, businesses, and creative economy will help make Sonoma County a destination for artists and tourists, while making the community even more vibrant for our residents."

Art is an important area for economic growth potential, and until now there has been no coordinated strategy for supporting the creative economy countywide, according to county officials.

Of 210 nonprofit arts organizations in the county in 2012, 103 were actively operating and filing with the IRS, according to the latest figures from the National Center for Charitable Statistics cited in the plan. Total revenues were $36.6 million that year and total assets, $98.6 million.

The strategic plan follows Board of Supervisors action to spend $250,000 on the creative arts. The strategy document was developed by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and prepared by arts consulting firm Cultural Planning Group with the help of more than 200 people and groups interested in the sector. Discussion groups and interviews were held in February nearly all communities in the county, involving local government, elected officials, individual artists, non-profit arts organizations, for-profit creative firms, educational institutions and others.

The Economic Development Board recently outlined three major growth areas: craft food and beverage, outdoor recreation and bicycling and creative enterprises such as architecture firms, advertising agencies, marketing companies, animation firms, music producers, artist studios and art galleries.

"The Board of Supervisors has been a catalyst for reinvigorating the creative arts community in Sonoma County," noted Pam Chanter, an insurance executive and chairwoman of the Economic Development Board. "We see this as a milestone for our county, for which everyone should be proud."

Creative Sonoma would start and support community cultural planning, convene groups of importance to the arts community, develop information resources for the public that supports cultural tourism, facilitate the success of the county's emerging for-profit creative sector, inventory cultural arts resources, promote arts education, and develop policy recommendations for county government to supports the arts. The Economic Development Board will begin to implement the report's recommendations, focusing first on incubating the Creative Sonomamodel.