Monday, May 28, 2018

Wheeler Asks Common Council to Think Big About The Arts in Middletown

Dear Council Members and other friends, 
So, as we head toward Tuesday evening’s Council meeting (with pre-show entertainment provided by the City’s incensed community of artists, arts organizations, arts advocates, and others who recognize the arts and culture as an economic  catalyst, enhancer of the quality of life, magnet for creative thinkers and “the abstract and brief chronicles of the time”) I am frustrated by the lack of information and lack of response provided by the members of our Council.
Why has the Council chosen to select this little micro-office for abandonment? What is the plan going forward for managing the granting programs and many other programs and events  supervised by the Arts Office over the past 40 years? What is the message intended by selecting this specific office for dissolution?
I have received little niblets of information through the town’s rumor mill, but several direct communications with my friends and acquaintances on the Council have been met with silence.   One rumor has something to do with taking a year to look at and revise the job description for the Arts Coordinator? Another tells me about making it a half-time position and moving the coordination of things like Kids Arts to Parks and Rec? 
Why does this conversation seem to be happening in the world of back room deals, in coffee shop cliques of council members or side rooms of the Democratic Town Committee? Why is there no public dialog at this important moment of transition when the town should be thoughtfully and democratically moving forward to create a stronger and more empowered Arts Office?
Now is the time, frankly, with downtown pretty healthy and Middletown something of a magnet for visitors in search of food and drink, to expand this office and its mission, not eliminate, shrink or devalue it. The Arts deserve a full-time director with full-time administrative staff person. In that configuration the Director might be able to do what a Director should really be doing – being a strong advocate for the arts; working closely with the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development to craft the place of the arts in the economic and cultural future of Middletown; providing support, advice and assistance to artists, arts organizations, businesses, educational institutions, government, foundations and others wanting to impact and drive our City’s future through the arts and arts-related activities. By making the arts office small and unempowered, we are engaging in small thinking about our future. Now is the time to recognize the impact of the arts on the life, economy and image of a community and increase and support that position.
You want an updated job description? I can give you one in 30 minutes that will be just as adequate and accurate as anything that comes out of a year going through the Arts Commission, General Counsel, Finance Committee and Government Committee -- and it will save a lot of time and money. Advocacy. Empowerment. Vision. Economic Development. Support for our cultural assets. 
I will see you all tomorrow evening, but am happy to dialog with anyone before then. My cell phone number is (860) 202-2868. Every smidgen of information that has come to me so far just seems wrong, politicized, and short-sighted. The arts don’t cost money. The arts make money for a community. Arts support is not a subsidy, it is an investment that historically pays off many times over. Don’t think small and act from a place of caution, personality and politics. Think big and work from a place of vision, potential and investment in our future. Restore the Arts Office to the City Department that it once was, give the Arts and Culture Director a seat at the City Directors’ table, believe in the fantastic future of Middletown. Do the right thing.
Thanks for your time, patience and commitment. I really respect the work that you all do.
Dic Wheeler
119 Highland Ave
Middletown, CT 06457

No comments: