LIMA — Art is everywhere, and the Lima Area Arts Collaborative honored that positive economic impact with the second annual Arts Advocacy Luncheon and Award presentation in conjunction with the Lima Rotary Club.
Guest speaker Marc Folk, executive director of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, spoke on the economic impact to metropolitan areas and how important it is to local economies to advocate growth in the arts.
“In Allen County, there are 220 art-related industries that provide 802 people with employment,” Folk said. “It is important to sustain growth in those industries.”
Folk has been a leader in creating economic growth in the arts in the Toledo area since 1996 as an instructor with the Young Artists at Work program. He became executive director at ACGT in 2007.
Since taking over as director, Folk has stressed the importance of art to local economies. He has instituted many projects aimed at increasing the impact of art in Northwest Ohio, which he says helps economic growth.
Some of those projects include Artomatic 419, a community-led arts event, and Artzone, an effort to attract artists to the area and assist in revitalization of the community. A six-week program called Young Artists At Work has also stirred up interest among youth in the Toledo area each year.
“We had one building that sat empty for more than four years,” Folk said. “The building was in the designated Artzone. Within four months of hosting an Artomatic 419 event at the building, it was leased at 100 percent capacity.”
Folk said the General Assembly recently increased public funding for arts and culture by securing $22.7 million in the Ohio Arts Council budget. He said as state funding increases, federal funding continues to decrease so it is important to continue advocating for funding.
“Art supports 197,000 jobs in Ohio,” Folk said. “Northwest Ohio has great local assets and can positively impact the economy of our local communities.”
The Toledo area saw the number of art studios expand from 30 to 65 in Toledo during Folk's tenure, and there are 11 new galleries and four new art-related businesses. Cindy Wood of the Veterans Memorial Civic Center said the impact is obvious among the 27 counties in Northwest Ohio.
“A study released by Bowling Green State University in 2009 showed that art-related industries generate more than $2 billion and sustains jobs and local tax revenue,” Wood said. “Allen County holds a significant role in that figure.”
Ohio Citizens for the Arts Executive Director Donna Collins elaborated more on Allen County's role.
“I have art from Lima middle school students hanging in my office,” Collins said. “Local support of the arts is key. This is where it starts, at the grass roots. The kids love it and it teaches them to work in creative and innovative ways.”
Awards given to local residents included the Collaborative Creator/Artist Award going to Joe Bonifas, a long-time art teacher at Shawnee High School, the Award for Arts Advocacy to Lima City Schools director of arts and magnet programs Sally Windle, and Art Philanthropist Award to Jim and Chris O'Neill.