A Public Arts Manager to be hired by Lancaster City

Three weeks ago I wrote that the Lancaster County Community Foundation was giving $200,000 to the City of Lancaster to establish a public arts department. The city is going to use that money to hire a public arts manager, Bernard Harris reports in this afternoon’s New Era. The idea of the department and the manager came out of a “Lancaster Public Art Action Plan” (pdf), which was completed on October 28 by the Community Foundation and the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.

Two people spoke to Mr. Harris about the plan: Mayor Rick Gray, who is the main proponent of this public arts initiative, and public works director Charlotte Katzenmoyer.

Ain't this public art good enough for you?

In a nutshell, it will be the role of the public arts manager to figure out how to keep the city getting more beautiful, rather than more ugly, over the coming years. That will likely take a mix of public policy (standard procedures and guidelines), ordinances (such as requiring 1% of the amount spent on new construction projects to be spent on public art or aesthetics), funding, awareness, and advocacy.

It sounds like the newly-hired public arts manager will be given the opportunity to study what other cities have done to foster public art. The manager will then be asked to suggest an overall public arts initiative for Lancaster city and present plans for how to make it happen.

It’s likely that a volunteer Public Arts Committee will be formed as well.

What do you think of this idea? What type of person should be considered for this position? How can we make sure that this program succeeds after the 3-year $200,000 grant dries up?

For those of you who are a part of the Creative House of Lancaster, it’s likely we’ll work together to bring a grassroots arts perspective to this initiative.

Lancaster County Community Foundation Grants

The Lancaster County Community Foundation announced its latest round of grants in a press release dated Friday. Here is what I consider to be especially notable. My comments are in italics below.

From the press release: “Arts and culture non-profit organizations play a significant economic development role in Lancaster County, contributing $28 million to the community and creating 800 full time jobs. The Community Foundation is committed to bolstering the economic impact of arts organizations and arts-related businesses by encouraging their sustainability and growth.”


  • Water Street Rescue Mission – $27,000
    To create a Client Management Database, which will enhance homeless data collection for Lancaster County. Funding provided by the Margaret R. Eppihimer Fund.
    I have no doubt that we are going to see nonprofits evolving greater capacity as “think tanks.” In a knowledge economy, the collection and intelligent interpretation of information will become both possible and necessary to improve services and to achieve community goals. People solving problems need information and good ideas.
  • Lancaster Investment in a Vibrant Economy (L.I.V.E.) – $27,104
    To help organizations implement environmentally preferable practices through The Green Facilities Partnership between LIVE Green, the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Green Seal Inc. Funding provided by the Lancaster Environmental Fund.
    We’re all interested to see to what degree businesses de-prioritize greening their operations, given the current economic climate. Many are already putting short-term survival over solving longer-term problems.
  • Lancaster Symphony Orchestra – $22,000
    For the Music Discovery Experience in the City of Lancaster. The program includes 3 performances at McCaskey High School, 20 instrument petting zoos, and the Symphony’s instrument loan program in the fall. Funding provided by the Sam & Verda Taylor Fund for the Performing Arts.
    I will be watching this program with interest. When funds are limited for education and the arts, I wonder what is a better approach—a “shotgun” attempt to expose lots of kids in a shallow way, or a highly-focused attempt to give talented kids a huge boost (e.g., sponsoring intense private lessons).
  • Fulton Opera House Foundation – $11,600
    Will support and expand the theatre’s Audio Described, American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreted, and Spanish Interpreted performance programs. Funding provided by the Sam & Verda Taylor Fund for the Performing Arts.
    One question is, will this actually help people, or just make Fulton patrons feel better about themselves?
  • SouthEast Lancaster Health Services – $33,890
    SELHS’ Healthy Start Program is designed to improve children’s health from age 0-5 through a comprehensive approach including prenatal care, parent/child education and pediatric care. Funding provided by the Better Lancaster Fund.
    From everything I hear, SELHS sounds like one of the best charitable operations going in the county.


  • Demuth Foundation & Museum – $20,000
    To implement new graphic and web identities to align the museum’s public image with its mission and programs, and generate local and national interest, membership, and sustainability.
    It’s unfortunate that while this museum is important, it’s not great. It should be great. I wonder if projected-image enhancement is the best use of $20,000.
  • Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse – $20,000
    To bring expert guidance to their current transformation from a program-focused to a community and relationship focused organization.
    I like the sound of that.
  • Lancaster Day Care Center – $14,790
    To hire a consultant to prepare a comprehensive Strategic Plan. Critical issues to be addressed include a plan for succession, facility improvements and fundraising analysis.
    I’d much rather see funds going to training women who already provide informal child care, so they can run legitimate, safe child care operations.
  • Southern End Community Association – $20,000
    To hire a professional consultant to develop a new strategic plan. This will give the agency a redirected focus and strengthen its ability to better serve the community.
    This is only one of six grants that were given to help organizations with strategic plans. The Obama campaign didn’t have a strategic plan, and did not emphasize formal strategy. I think we’re going to see “strategic planning” go out of vogue, and I say good riddance.
  • Lancaster County Conservancy – $20,000
    To conduct a feasibility study for new headquarters integrated with an innovative Environmental Center on an urban forest nature preserve.
    Sounds cool to me.


  • Franklin & Marshall College – $249,992
    To create “Poetry Paths” across Lancaster City to introduce poetry by eminent and local writers into the daily lives of Lancaster’s residents and guests. Stands and pavers will be used to permanently display the poems.
    Hmm. I want to learn more. I’m a poet, and I’m far from sold based on this description.
  • City of Lancaster – $200,000
    To develop a public art department. The department head will manage city public art projects, coordinate with other community public art efforts, develop public art policies and infrastructure, and function as an information clearinghouse for public art information in the community.
    Two hundred thousand dollars for an arts bureaucracy? Again, I’m far from sold, especially based on that whole thing about how good art is created bottom-up rather than top-down, and how art is everyone’s business, not something that can be sequestered off.
  • Fulton Opera House – $120,000
    To expand the arts education staff at the Fulton, and enable their historic theatre to better serve and engage the Lancaster community. An Education Department will allow the Fulton to maintain and solidify this programming, while increasing capacity and effectiveness.
    I think we should match students with the real excitement in the arts world. I hesitate to endorse the idea that that excitement is to be found in an institution that runs mass-audience Broadways standards.
  • Pennsylvania College of Art and Design – $150,000
    Funding will develop three programs: 1) Mosaic Engagement, a series of three exhibitions that will connect audiences from the county with vibrant art by successful artists; 2) Mosaic Middle School and High School Programming, providing 150 School District of Lancaster and Pequea Valley middle and high school students with unique educational opportunities; 3) Mosaic After Program, providing further art education and resources for these same students.
    Remember what I just wrote about matching students with the real excitement? This sounds much closer to the target to me.

All in all, I think the Community Foundation is doing awesome work. I can’t wait to see more innovative organizations springing up to go the extra mile and take greater risks toward making “extraordinary community,” which is the Foundation’s goal. What are your thoughts on these grants? If you had money to give, what would you want it to go toward? Do you have an idea you’d love to have funded one day?