Photography by Jason Huynh.
Q1: Can you explain to our readers what your organization, RACA, is?
MM: RACA is the Rome Area Council for the Arts. We have been around for over 40 years, and we are a non-profit community organization, community board, that seeks to promote and support the arts in our community. So we’re not necessarily artists ourselves. Now many of us love the arts and engage in the arts in different ways. But we exist solely to make sure the arts continue to be vibrant and thriving in our community. And we do that through numerous ways; such as creating an art program where there is a gap, fundraising, promotions, advocacy for the importance of the arts as a whole and making sure they stay a part of the fabric of our community.
Q2: What is the goal and heart behind Rome Area Council for the Arts?
MM: We believe that the arts should be accessible to everyone, and that the arts are vital to us as human beings. And not to diminish the role of math or science, but the arts are what connect us on a human level, person to person. We feel strongly that there should be multiple ways to engage at different levels with art; and that as a society, as humans, we need that. It’s intrinsic to who we are–you know, there’s a reason that the first peoples drew on cave walls. Art is what connects us all. Having a collective experience; whether you sit in an auditorium and listen to the symphony, or you watch live theatre, or you go to an art gallery and you a reaction to the art. It’s to make you feel something and to make you connect to others around you; to have a conversation and engage as an audience.And on the other side of that, artists need a place to share. We all have art and creativity within us.
And I think that souls and feelings aren’t as easy to talk about, or it’s not quantifiable when it comes to funding or how it impacts the community. And that’s why RACA exists; to make sure art and its impact stays at the forefront of the community.
Q3: How does RACA choose its projects so this goal is achieved?
MM: Well we would love to say yes to everything! But we are a non-profit arts organization, so we do have to fundraise every penny we have.
We have a committee of community leaders that are on our board, and they really take our mission statement into account. Our mission statement says we “seek to enrich the Rome community through the unifying and compelling power of the arts.” And we actually have a rubric and mathematically score every [potential project] so that we can really drill down the decision if we needed to. But it usually comes down to a lot of good conversation about how we feel that the project will impact not only the people who are participating in it, but the audience as well. And we fund as much as we can, as much as the budget will allow.
Q4: Can you describe a project that RACA is doing for the arts in Rome currently?
MM: Well, we just finished the Align Series [a co-effort graphic design project with V3 that you can read about here]. And our next project is the Community HeArt Project, a partnership with Redmond Hospital where we do a public art installation for the month of February. Local artists, community groups, non-profits, classes come together and create a piece of art. Then it’s displayed in downtown. We’re actually changing it up this year too. Instead of the big concrete hearts that you normally see, we’re doing two-dimensional pieces on the side of the parking deck overlooking the town green. So in all those windows that look like frames, there will be a large, collective public art installation. We think that will be kind of cool and different. Since that project is in its sixth year, we decided to change it up.
We also give grants to arts organizations and artists. So we just funded about $15,000 worth of grants this quarter–into the community for the people who are doing the art. Last year total, we gave about $30,000 in grants, we had 19 projects and we touched over 20,000 individuals in the community. And that’s why we exist; that’s what we do.
Q5: How can the Rome community get involved with what Rome Area Council for the Arts is doing?
MM: Right now, we have a lot of goals for the future. For instance, it’s always been a goal for our group to have a freestanding arts center in this community–a central hub where we could have arts exhibits, classes, art camps, meet and greets with artists, small film screenings or performances of musicians and plays. And that all needs support and money. So obviously giving your money is a super easy way to be involved.
We also have events and fundraisers that you can get involved with, such as the Rome Beer Fest. Not many people realize that is a RACA fundraiser. We always need people to volunteer and help get the word out. The Firefly Fling is our next big fundraiser, and that’s a huge event.
But really, I think the most important way you can support the work that we do is by realizing how important the arts are and by not putting them to the side or at the bottom of the list. I’m actually part of Leadership Rome, so I’m learning much more about how our community functions and what’s important; and I realize that when there is human need or roads are crumbling, that’s important. But the arts build our cultural infrastructure that is vital to our community and that quality of life and that social capital that we all have with each other. And I firmly believe that it is just as important as some of those other things.
So if you’re reading this, think about everything around you–the chair you’re sitting in, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the phone you hold. Those were all designed by an artist first. Art touches everything. And engaging with art has no negative side effects. How many things can you say that about? I believe just kindness and art! So really we just need people to engage with and advocate for the arts.
For more information and to get involved, visit: romearts.org