Blogger Above Average Jane joined Great Expections at both the summer and fall Big Canvas forums. She returns to give us her take on the concluding event, The Big Canvas Confab. She writes:

The big finale of the Big Canvas was held on Saturday, December 6th at the Valley Forge Radisson.  Close to 200 people attended. 

Judge Midge Rendell, Pennsylvania’s first lady gave the keynote address.  She spoke primarily about the founding of the Avenue of the Arts and drew comparisons between that process and what is needed to realize the Big Canvas project.

Project coordinators Chris Satullo and Harris Sokoloff, who had previously welcomed participants, returned to the podium, gave the day’s themes as to embrace creativity as Philadelphia’s winning regional motto and global brand, and to think in active not passive voice; participate and don’t just attend.  In a few months advisers will reconvene to discuss ideas to take to elected officials.

In looking at the five themes that came out of the previous Big Canvas meetings, three of them emerged as the most popular.  Creative Economy, Community, and Children were the leaders, with the Art Experience trailing and the status quo barely registering.

A panel of arts and culture leaders spoke next, David Thornburgh, executive director of the Fels Institute, Douglas Dolan of the Mercer Museum, Germaine Ingram of the Philadelphia Folklore Project, Julie Goodman Hawkins of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and Gary Steuer of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy. 

Thornburgh coined an acronym and catch phrase, Margaret Meade on a camel; the c for realizing our customer, the people we are trying to persuade, are elected officials, a is for a needed proposal, the m I missed, o for organization and discipline, and l for leadership.  Margaret Meade came in when he referred to a saying she is known for “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  The catch phrase was later amended to getting to Camelot on a camel.

As a personal note, I was annoyed with the three people who wandered the room carrying posterboards with statements against moving the Barnes Museum.  They sometimes stood so their signs blocked my view of the projector screens or partially blocked my view of parts of the room.  At one point someone with a sign actually went up and stood behind a speaker holding up his sign.  This did not leave me with positive feelings toward their cause.

Elected officials attending were Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, State Senators Andrew Dinniman and Edwin Erickson, former State Senator Earl Baker, State Representative Josh Shapiro, Philadelphia City Councilpeople Bill Green, Jannie Blackwell, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and Blondell Reynolds Brown.

The people in attendance broke into seven or eight small groups, each with one or two moderators and an elected official.  The group I was in discussed what was meant by the phrase “creative economy” and the role of cultural and arts organizations in the area, especially in schools.  Several people said the idea if a web 2.0 site was not needed as there were a number of calendar sites already available.  Our elected official told some interesting stories about the importance of understanding how the rules of government and how to work within them to get what you want.

After the group reconvened the elected officials said a few words each.

Blondell Reynolds Brown:  We need to get kids more involved in the areas because those who are involved are less likely to end up in court and more likely to graduate.

Joe Hoeffel:  Fighting over money is a good thing – gets everyone’s attention

Josh Shapiro:  Pride in individual centers and programs, not sharing ideas or money

Andrew Dinniman:  Evolve self-interest to enlightened self-interest, don’t give to the same museums each year

Eric Erickson:  Could be the economic drive of our region

Earl Baker:  Partner in legislation was Allyson Schwartz when she was in the state senate, voluntary to put funds in counties, etc, but didn’t pass, maybe money from stimulus package

Bill Green:  Organizations focus on things they can do for each other without costing money, every $1 the federal government invests in the arts and culture gets a $5 return, for the state every $2.00 gets a $2.50 return.

The event adjourned for the day.