Petersburg discusses promoting arts and culture
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Feb 4, 2013, 14:39
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Bonnie Kirby shares her thoughts at the Arts and Culture District Forum, held in Petersburg, Saturday.
How Petersburg can take arts and culture within it’s borders to “the next level” was the main topic of discussion at Saturday’s Arts and Culture District Forum.
Sponsored by the Southside Virginia Council of the Arts, Downtown Petersburg Incorporated, and the City of Petersburg, the Forum considered the city’s Friday Night for the Arts event and the newly established Arts and Cultural District.
“This is a collaborative effort between the city of Petersburg Cultural Affairs Department, the Southside Virginia Council of the Arts and Downtown Petersburg Incorporated as a focus for taking arts and culture and energizing it to the next level,” Kevin Kirby, the city’s director of tourism, museums and visitor services, said of the meeting.
With the tenth anniversary of Friday for the Arts coming up this summer, Kirby said it was time for the city to take a look at the event and consider ways to enhance it. Out of the many entertainment options available on Friday nights, the city would like to make it’s monthly event the number one choice for everybody.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Kevin Kirby and Victoria Revilla offered information about the area’s future plans.
The meeting, held at the old train station in Petersburg, was attended by a large group of business owners, artists and people interested in seeing the city develop into an arts and culture hub.
“It’s part of brining the community together,” said Victoria Revilla, President of the Southside Virginia Council of the Arts. “The owners, the businesses and the arts entities and the civic entities, together to take Friday for the Arts and the whole arts district one step further.”
She said her organization is developing short term and long term strategies to promote Petersburg in the region and to the nation. Maximizing the use of technology and social media will be a part of that.
She said that the fact that Petersburg is currently redesigning its city website to include an arts, culture and entertainment drop down tab is a huge leap forward.
“That is a major accomplishment for us,” Revilla said.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
Kirby said that having an arts and culture district will help promote the city as a destination where those things are prevalent. He described Sycamore Street as the backbone of the region, which eliminates admission tax for the businesses within its borders.
“Beyond that fiscal benefit, is the collaborative process of letting everyone work together so you feel like a part of a community within that geographic space,” he said.
Many members of the audience wondered what kind of initiatives are underway to try to attract more artists and venues to the city, something Revilla said would be accomplished by a successful arts and cultural district.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
“If you hear about a great arts disctict and how well it’s doing, that in itself is going to encourage you to see what it’s all about and maybe move into it,” she said. “I think that, in itself, is going to promote folks to come in and live in the city.”
She said they are also working on developing an initiative that would bring interns into the arts and cultural district to hone their skills. She said that might encourage some to stay. Seminars and workshops advertised nation wide is another possibility.
Kirby said that the day had convinced him that people were behind the collaborative approach.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Dulaney Ward was in the audience to share his ideas for arts in the Petersburg area.
“By virtue of the turnout and the feedback, I personally feel that the artist community, and there are some here who are not artists, but the retail community, and interested residents of Petersburg, agree that by coming together, we can be stronger,” Kirby said. “So they have collectively agreed to a partnership, and our role as a triad of city of Petersburg Cultural Affairs Department, the Southside Virginia Council of the Arts and Downtown Petersburg Incorporated, is to help keep that dynamic moving forward.”