Planning a Community Arts and Music Collective in Columbus, GA

Introduction

Members of the Columbus, GA community continue to inform me that an arts and music collective is vitally needed. Yet, some of them continue to cite examples of independent music and arts businesses (independent from the mainstream cultural institutions in Columbus and the surrounding community) that have failed in the recent and distant past.  However, all of these previous ventures were individual for-profit projects, rather than collective community ventures that involved a significant portion and cross section of the city’s population.  Additionally, there are arts that are not even included in the mainstream cultural institutions that should be considered, including film and pottery crafts as well as homesteading.  While I have explored the practical possibilities of creating this and understand what appears to be general resistance and only understand it as someone who recently moved to and away from the city, I also understand the hope that many have that this will change.  I look to the recent private venture, the Estate, a live music venue featuring many local and traveling artists and bands.  What makes this private venture different from previously failed ones is the venue leadership’s active requests for participation, solicited from the local live music attending community and local arts and music creators.  I believe that the establishment of this venue has created a favorable atmosphere that is ripe for the introduction of this project, an arts and music collective that can succeed, that periodically works in collaboration with the Estate and, perhaps, utilizes the same space part time until the collective can become established. 

Proposal Summary

The Columbus, GA arts and music Co-op will be organized first as a collective, based on communitarian anarchist principles (Clark, 2013) with members taking equal part in its organization based on time, interest, and skill.  This beginning will be used as a barometer to determine if there is a strong enough interest in the community to later sustain itself as an arts nonprofit to benefit the community at large.  There is enough interest at this point to begin a collective based on the interest that the immediate music community shows in the Estate.  It is hoped that this new venue will act as an impetus and a possible partner to the Co-op to help promote it to the wider community and gain interest in the community at large. 

The mission of the Columbus, GA arts and music Co-op is to serve the underserved alternative arts and music communities in Columbus and the surrounding areas.  The vision statement of the Co-op is, “a creative space for all.”  It is possible that once established, the Co-op will be used for more than just a meeting place for arts and music shows and include work spaces and the discounted renting of equipment for contributing members, either through membership fees or volunteer time. 

 

Clarifying Goals, Strategies, and Tactics

For purposes of this paper, goals, strategies, and tactics will each be defined, first, and then, further, their application to the Columbus, GA arts and music Co-op will be analyzed. There are two types of goals, long-term goals and short-term issue goals.  The former are accomplishments that the Co-op hopes to eventually achieve in the long view of the future.  These, according to Bobo, Kendall, & Max (2010) are organizational considerations, views that should be included in a business plan that includes five-and ten-year plans for future development. Immediate goals are those that are instantly achievable, those that are realistically met in coming days, weeks, and perhaps months. 

A strategy is the overall plan to organize goals and tactics into a coherent plan.  In Bobo, Kendall, & Max (2010) there seem to be short and long term strategies, and they distinguish a short-term strategy that is designed to force a government or corporate official do something in the public’s interest, a direct action, and a long-term plan.  Looking at this from a realistic viewpoint, a strategy can be of an indeterminate length and a plan is most likely a longer-term effort for the organization.  Tactics are the glue that allow for the implementation of strategies and goals, separately and collectively.  These are the steps that help to carry out the overall plan.

For the Columbus, GA arts and music Co-op, the immediate short-term goals of the organization, after gathering collaborators and assessing individual skills, are the formation of the actual Co-op, finding a space to gather and conduct meetings and to organize events and classes.  Long-term goals will include organizational strategies that allow the Co-op to survive, thrive, and succeed like government and public collaborations, the formation of a non-profit, and five- and ten-year plans within a business plan for future development.  Strategy within the Co-op should be manifested with the composition of a business plan, collectively contributed to by members of the Co-op, as well as, after the business plan is completed, a five- and possibly ten-year strategy to complete it. Tactics, again, are going to be the short and long-term day-to-day actions that allow for the accomplishment of the goals and strategy.

 

Strategy Chart

Goals

Organizational Considerations

Constituencies

Targets

Tactics

Long Term: Establishment as community institution

 

Intermediate: Nonprofit application, funding, community recognition, events promotion, social media.

 

Short Term: Core group formation

Necessary Inputs: Physical space, volunteers; office and creative arts equipment; utilities; organization committee; education/mentoring platform and developed curriculum.

 

Desired Outcomes: Physical space and some working equipment; developed curriculum

Constituents: Local schools, community groups, associations, religious organizations, parent groups.

 

Allies: Parents, children, teens, young adults, underserved communities.

 

Opponents?: Any possible groups opposed to a new local arts and music collective

Community: Local groups, associations, churches

 

Local Government: City government bodies and representatives

 

State Government: Initial inquiries to determine best practices and grant funding available

 

Federal Government: Initial inquiries to determine best practices and grant funding available

 

Local Community: Personal networks, local groups and associations, churches

 

Parents: Neighborhoods: Parents of children and teens, PTA associations

 

Media: Local news media

 

Government: Local and state government representatives, then federal representatives later

 

           

 

Goals

Long-term goals for the Co-op are to establish itself as a normal fixture within the community, something that everyone from most areas of the community recognize when they think of music and arts within the community, especially children, teens, and young adults as well as members of the community working on the outer fringes of creative expression. Intermediate goals will be those goals that facilitate the establishment of the Co-op as a community fixture long-term.  Such intermediate goals include the pursuit of grants and other forms of funding following the successful application of federal nonprofit status and the composition of a business plan that includes five- and ten-year projections.  Additionally, the goal is also to appeal to local government for recognition within the community as well as local news media to assist in promoting events throughout the year. An internal expert will also be employed to promote events via social media.  The pursuit of publicity for events will also occur in the immediate short term once a core group of like-minded individuals are gathered to begin the journey to form the Co-op. Short-term goals include networking with local community members (young adults, parents, artists, musicians, other creatives, small business leaders) to form the initial Co-op. Once a core a group is formed, an assessment of individual skills, resource access, personal available funds after determining immediate needs to begin meetings, mentoring, and classes at the Co-op. 

 

Organizational Considerations

There will be some overlap with other sections of the chart above, but this is done for clarification purposes and the temporary absence of a business plan.  Organizational considerations in the immediate present include the securing of a working/mentoring/teaching and meeting space as well as staff monitor volunteers.  Other considerations will be a working computer, printer, website, phone number, and internet access.  While one or two items may not be immediately necessary to start up the Co-op and find a space, they will shortly be necessary in order to become a functioning organization within the community. 

Desired outcomes at this early stage are difficult to determine realistically, though a space for music and art instruction/mentoring, office and creative arts equipment, and a developed education curriculum are certainly a desired necessity.  The curriculum will be developed in-house utilizing a transactional model of mentored self-learning and critical analysis that uses triggers of incoming stimuli and the universal knowledge of humanity through a bridge that incorporates a self-aware phase space that self-observes and processes stimuli in an unbiased fashion.  

 

Constituencies

The constituencies for this project will include the children attending local public and private preschools through senior high schools and colleges and universities. Additionally, local groups will be encouraged to participate, or at least promote the new Co-op.  These groups include, local community groups and associations, religious organizations, and school and area parent groups. Such groups will either have children amongst their constituencies or serve children in their community and will be a logical fit.  Thus, they can help promote the Co-op and the Co-op can recruit volunteer teachers and participant members and also promote these respective organizations.  An alternative scenario is approaching these organizations for sponsorship of the needed space and utilities as well as classes and individual teachers and mentors for a mutual exchange of word-of-mouth promotion and more substantial promotion later once the Co-op is firmly established and generating an income.

Allies are another tier of support for the Co-op, one that logically will include word-of-mouth promotion as well as financial support (in the form of a sliding scale to be fleshed out within the creation of the later business plan).  These allies will obviously include parents and their younger and older teen children as well as young adults. Underserved communities are especially important for the Co-op.  Columbus has a history of underserving these communities (of color, the elderly, lower income), therefore, it is important that the Co-op do not neglect these communities, especially since each and every one of them is crucial to the community and to the Co-op as teachers, mentors, and community storytellers  now and in the future. 

Although every last possible scenario and roadblock should be considered, it’s difficult to anticipate any opposition to the Co-op unless there are members of the community who are opposed to any community cultural activities whatsoever.  The author’s personal philosophy is that everyone has a biological and metaphysical need to create. What’s more realistic is when a space is obtained for a community member to raise objections to the potential noise and possible loitering that generally occurs outside of music venues.  While this is possible, this scenario should be anticipated in the business plan just as it was for the Estate that chose to find a space in a more industrial area of the City to minimize those difficulties.

 

Targets

Targets for support and funding are obviously the communities within the city of Columbus, GA, the local government, the state government of Georgia, and the Federal government.  Not all of these will be solicited immediately due to the start-up nature of the Co-op initiative, though inquiries will be made at City Hall and through state and federal representatives to determine the means to reach a point that applying for grant funding from state, federal and private endowments is a logical and successful endeavor.  However, local government representatives and associations will be solicited for information and possible funding from any local sources.  Each and every opportunity to solicit information and funding will also be used to network for the Co-op within the community and the surrounding area. 

 

Tactics

Tactics have been touched on in almost every section above but they will be clarified here.  The local community will be approached via key neighborhoods through current personal contacts to reach families with children and young adults.  These networking opportunities will obviously lead to others as the core leadership asks for referrals to other interested parties.  The Co-op will also reach out to local associations, especially Black American associations and churches to reach what is probably a majority of the Columbus, GA population, and an underserved segment of the city that is seldom represented within local government leadership.  Parent-teacher associations in the community will also be approached for the wider connections to other families with children in order to utilize word-of-mouth promotion of the Co-op.  Given that Columbus, GA is one of the smaller media markets, approaching local television and radio stations as well as newspapers should easily yield feature stories in each that will assist in promoting the Co-op if they are approached in a timely manner to schedule media appearances.  State and federal government representatives, even though it is early in its formation, will be approached to discuss options for grants and possible collaboration during local events and even reelection campaigns for exposure (though the organization will also approach opposition candidates during the election cycle).  However, such collaborations will be approached in a manner that remains as neutral as possible to avoid conflicts of interest.

 

Conclusion

Walking the streets of Columbus, GA it is certainly obvious that a Co-op serving the creative needs of the different neighborhoods and communities in and around the city is necessary when only a small handful of arts is visible in the narrow downtown area that appears pristinely clean and seems to cater to a specific segment of the population only, one that the city wants to represent to military-base tourists in the otherwise industrial town. The need for a creative center is visible everywhere.  It doesn’t have to just serve the alternative and independent undercurrent, though that need is great.  Such a collective can serve all segments of the population in need of a creative outlet.  While watering down the collective isn’t ideal, making it accessible to more community members will serve the collective and the community in a very real and productive way.  To do that, a plan of action is necessary. While more than this blueprint is certainly needed to accomplish this task, this roadmap is a productive first step that allows the Co-op to see far enough into the future, a future that looks brighter because there is an organization that cares enough about the community and its citizens to give them a canvas with which to create.

 

References

Bobo, K., Kendall, J., & Max, S. (2010). Organizing for social change: Midwest Academy manual for activists. Santa Ana.

Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out. Chicago, IL: ACTA Publications. [Referenced here for future implementation of the above planning]

Clark, J. P. (2013). The impossible community: Realizing communitarian anarchism. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

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