[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]
A recently approved plan to form a new "Creative Sonoma" art-promotion agency is said to be the first comprehensive program of its type to be implemented by any California county.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted in late June to adopt recommendations contained in a 30-page Arts Action Plan that would boost the nonprofit arts community, creative for-profit sector of the economy as well as individual artists and creative professionals.
The plan was produced by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board in collaboration with consultants from the Cultural Planning Group and input from more than 220 stakeholders over a four-month period.
In all, more than 500 individuals were involved in the study, including focus groups and 200 who attended a community forum.
"The arts not only enrich the lives of individuals, but also enrich our community and economic vitality," said David Rabbitt, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
"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."
The plan includes a county investment of $250,000 the first year -- up to a total of $500,000 over three years -- with funds coming from TOT revenues to help jump start the new agency.
"We are looking forward to conducting a nationwide search to recruit a director for Creative Sonoma," said Pam Chanter, board chair of the EDB.
"The supervisors felt, as did all the focus groups, that the EDB was the best place to incubate this new program, as they did the tourism bureau for seven years before it became independent and hired its own director. The county anticipates that the EDB will incubate this new arts sector agency for at least three years."
The Arts Action Plan recognizes that Sonoma County faces a transition following the disbanding of the Arts Council of Sonoma County. It seeks to define what agency or partnership would best provide leadership for cultural and economic development, what its focus should be and how it can be structured and funded.
There were some 210 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Sonoma County in 2012, and 103 of these were actively operating and filing with the IRS, according to the latest figures from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. For this group, total revenues were $36.6 million with total assets of $98.6 million that year.
The plan identifies the needs of arts organizations, including funding, communication within the arts and business communities, as well as marketing and audience development, public visibility and advocacy about the role and value of arts in the community.
The EDB study group found that there is a lack of information and awareness of arts and culture throughout the county.
For example, the local community may provide strong attendance at downtown summer events, but few outside the immediate area are aware of them because they have not been widely promoted to visitors and regional residents.
"Moving this plan forward has been a priority for me for several years now," said Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire. "The creative arts represent an area of significant economic growth for the County. Our research points to a tremendous opportunity to make Sonoma County a destination for the arts just as we are now for wine, food and our beautiful open spaces. The creative arts enrich our lives and our economy. This plan helps bring people together, it will develop a comprehensive arts strategy and ultimately, it will put Sonoma County on the map as a premiere destination for the arts."