The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 8, 2011

Easy as ABC: Program highlights Joplin’s arts offerings

JOPLIN, Mo. — Even in the face of tragedy, art has the power to help frame how we view our world.

“It does what words can’t do, and that is to resonate with our human emotions and reactions to this tragedy,” said Becky Brill, who chairs the chamber’s cultural affairs committee.

The committee’s Arts Building Culture got under way less than a month after the May 22 tornado devastated a large portion of the city.

This year, there were more than 40 activities planned for the 2011 Arts Building Culture spotlight, which began on June 16 and will continue through Sept. 30. Over the course of the next few months, there will be activities ranging from gallery openings to outdoor music and theatrical performances.

It all began with the desire to create a “blueprint for the future.”

Several years ago, when the city of Joplin invited residents to share the direction they’d like to see the community move in, the response from the local arts contingent was overwhelming.

“They wanted to see more amenities, more things to do and more support for the arts,” Brill said A few months later, during the chamber board retreat, they made focusing on the arts a short-term goal.

Formed nearly three years ago under the umbrella of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, the cultural affairs committee set a goal of finding ways to encourage growth of the arts in Joplin. The committee also wants to help close the disconnect between the thriving arts community and residents who say there’s nothing here to do.

“The key is how do we open that line of communication (between artists and local residents) and make a dent in that perception,” Brill said.

Recognizing that their role shouldn’t be about creating new events, the committee decided to shine a spotlight on activities that were already taking place. The Arts Building Culture event was launched in 2010 -- its centerpiece a 15-week calendar that served as a guide to Joplin’s arts offerings.

Brill said that it took a bit of time for it to catch on but when it did, “it spread like wildfire.” as local arts organizations discovered a new way to reach audiences. Brill said that establishing a page on the social networking site Facebook helped to draw in a younger generation to local events.

Mike Richardson, general director of the Heartland Opera Theatre -- which will stage Mozart’s comic operate “Cosi fan tutte” in September -- said that he’s grateful for the exposure that ABC gives to his event.

“The Heartland Opera Theatre has been in business since 1998, but a lot of people are just now learning about it,” Richardson said. “Opera is an art form that has been revered down through the years, and we’re the only local arts organization doing that. The more exposure the better.”

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