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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Arts Advocacy and Activism Part 1: Interview with TCA's Mia Andrade Buentello

The Art of Brownsville will be bringing posts in the next few weeks that focus on arts advocacy and activism. Part 1 is an interview with Mia Marisol Buentello-Andrade, Administrator of Community Development and Rural Services with Texas Commission on the Arts. Mia also manages the Texas Commission on the Arts Rio Grande Valley Satellite Office and has probably logged hundreds, if not thousands of miles in car mileage towards fullfilling her mission to assist in the development of the arts and culture all across South Texas. The Art of Brownsville asked Mia some questions about her work and thoughts on local arts and arts advocacy and here is her response.

What is the mission of Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) and the satellite office it established in the Rio Grande Valley? The mission of the TCA is to "create a receptive climate for the arts in Texas.." The main objectives for the RGV Office are to: increase awareness of the value of the arts and ensure that underserved communities have equitable access to the agency's programs and services. Provide technical assistance to arts and cultural organizations, educational institutions, and other units of government in underserved Texas counties including the South Texas border region.

What kind of services or programs does TCA and its RGV Satellite Office offer and who can access these services? Our services include providing assistance with the grant application process as well as compliance, and providing information and referrals to the public and local artists on TCA’s programs such as grant opportunities and other sources of funding for the arts. Nonprofit art and cultural organizations, entities of government, schools and colleges are also eligible for most of TCA's grant programs. Individual artists are able to seek opportunities listed on TCAnet, http://www.arts.state.tx.us/, as well as search information for funding sources, professional development, as well as information on employment opportunities. Our website has thousands of links from arts education to arts advocacy. TCA has made available a wonderful resource called, "Tools for Results Toolkit”. This toolkit offers how-to’s and templates on various topics such as Marketing, Fundraising, Exhibit Planning...and it is available for free.

As Administrator of Community Development & Rural Services for TCA, what are some projects or initiatives are you currently working on? What are some projects or groups you have worked with in the past and what impact did you observe that it had on their community? One of the initiatives is the quarterly ARTSMeet that I coordinate and the goal is to convene local arts administrators, arts advocates, and artists to encourage networking opportunities. A workshop is presented during this meeting in topics that the arts community deems important to their success. The topics have included: Marketing on a Shoestring Budget and Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Arts Organizations. More are to come, but will most likely be scheduled in the Summer. The initial ARTSMeet was successful in that a representation of the major arts organization across the RGV was present. During this initial meeting a dialogue was encouraged to get an idea of what the needs were. Of course, money is always the top resource; but there is much more that arts organizations could benefit from, mainly professional and organizational development.

What initially inspired you to pursue the work you do now and what keeps you motivated to continue your advocacy and activism for the arts and culture communities of the Rio Grande Valley? When I attend a local art exhibition, a performance, reading...I am inspired by the artists' passion to create and to witness those who attend these programs become aware of the depth of the talent that exists in the RGV. Many things motivate me in my work. My main motivation comes from building a working relationship with local arts organizations and artists that will lead to positive results such as assisting an organization through TCA's grants process or providing a local artist with information and resources that will help him or her find more success. My belief is that, if properly developed, the arts in the RGV can have a positive impact on our economy, education, and quality of life.

What are some things you wish members of the arts and culture communities in the Rio Grande Valley knew more about? What are some things you would like to see come from these communities? When I first started working at TCA, I learned so much from my travels to other cities and states, mainly learning about successful arts programs. This was my best education yet! However, there is a wealth of information on the internet and I encourage people to learn as much as possible from other communities that have successful arts programs. Collaborative efforts between arts organizations benefit our community and we need to encourage that. Become active participants. Learn why the arts should matter, it goes beyond a quality of life issue.

What advice do you have for anyone reading this blog who has an interest to become active in the local arts and culture scene? From your observation, what skills or knowledge have proven to improve an artist's or cultural activist's chance for success? My advice for becoming active in the local arts and cultural scene is to: 1.) Understand why the arts are important. 2.) Learn who's in your community, museums, theatres, arts festivals, etc. 3.) Learn about advocacy. An arts advocate does not necessarily have to be an artist. To be successful as an arts advocate means that you have taken the time to learn why the arts are important to the fabric of your community and conveying that to local leaders. Successful advocates have a plan and a common vision and have an ability to create dialogue.

What vision do you have for the future of art and culture in the Rio Grande Valley? What potential do you think it has? My vision is that non profit arts organizations will be able to expand their programs even more, especially to our schools. Artists will have venues to exhibit and a market to sell locally and that the arts will be an important part of our community. There is so much potential, but it begins one step at a time.

Thank you Mia for your time and we especially want to thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to our local arts and culture. Readers, we hope that you will learn more about the services and resources Texas Commission on the Arts offers and especially, take advantage of them. Please stay tuned to the second part of this series on Arts Advocacy and Activism.

Mia Andrade-Buentello can be contacted at 956.682.5336 * TOLL FREE 1.800.252.9415* mia@arts.state.tx.us .

1 comment:

jamiller@wisd.us said...

The people of RGV need to have opportunities to learn about art.

Majority of RGV schools have no art teachers in elementary schools. Middle school teachers have minimal or no budgets;therefore, art students in high school are pretty much at a disadvantage compared to other areas in Texas and beyond. Many Valley students are good at drawing, but have little knowledge of any other medium or art history. We all know how much talent there is here. I think that we should demand a better education for our kids. In Weslaco, I have been trying hard to make changes in how the community views the arts. My Elementary students have fundraised to bring art replicas to the community, flew artworks on balloons for world peace, and are currently creating a 6-foot Mayan Step Pyramid out of recycled materials.Not bad for a teacher who had a $0 budget, no conferenxce or planning times, 55 classes per week! All projects were not easy to pull off because many people in authority didn't value the arts. They are starting to change their minds because we have involved the people in our community.
If we want people to go to our exhibits and support our museums, then we should find out how to change our schools.

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