Rodney Van Valkenburg Stresses The Higher Importance Of The Arts

Monday, July 22, 2019 - by Joseph Dycus
Rodney Van Valkenburg at the Pachyderm Club
Rodney Van Valkenburg at the Pachyderm Club
- photo by Joseph Dycus

Art can serve a higher purpose than simply being aesthetically pleasing, and Rodney Van Valkenburg let the Pachyderm Club know why during their weekly meeting.

The interim president of ArtsBuild, a local organization that helps facilitate the growth of the arts in Chattanooga, went through a multitude of points during his presentation.

The speaker spoke at length about the economic impact ArtsBuild’s programs have on the community.

“Our purpose is promoting the creative arts,” said Mr. Van Valkenburg, “and the shorthand is that we are the United Way for the arts. We raise money so we can invest into all of our arts organizations.”

The company funds 24 organizations, including the Tivoli Theater, the Hunter Museum, and many other important institutions. However, he let it be known that not just any arts-related organization is eligible for funding.

“They have to go through a review process. The main issue, about 50% of the issue, for access is “how do you serve the community?” How can the arts support the good things happening in the community,” asked Mr. Van Valkenburg, “will your organization helps in schools or social service agencies? How can we help invest that money into those organizations and empower them to reach out?”

However, he did not want this qualifier to scare of any potential programs from applying. Even though there are standard which must be met, the speaker encouraged others to apply.

“Anyone who has a good idea to make Chattanooga a better place can get a grant to fund their project,” he said, “It only takes a day to figure out If they’ve been approved.”

Mr. Van Valkenburg also gave some background information on ArtsBuild. The speaker said,  “The great thing about the arts from a political standpoint is that it’s non-partisan,” but he also got slightly political In front of a rather conservative audience.

He praised Chuck Fleischmann, who has been very supportive of the arts during his time as a Congressman. He said Congressman Fleischmann got into office, saw the missing artwork in the Third District's student artwork section in the Capitol, and said, “We need to change this.”

Mr. Van Valkenburg spent a good amount of the presentation illustrating why investing in art for their children’s’ (or grandchildren’s’) education was of vital importance. He mentioned Splash, a program where Chattanooga children create art and then sell it.

“It’s become an oasis. It keeps them occupied, and shows them they have talents they may not have known they have,” said the speaker, “They’re also showing them how to be entrepreneurs, how to sell their artwork.”

“It’s about engagement, it’s about engaging the kids. They may be bored in math, but they’ll show up for their art class.”

Mr. Van Valkenburg gave special attention to the economic impact ArtBuild’s investments have on the Chattanooga community. By funding art-related programs in schools and other places, money has actually been generated for the Scenic City.

 “We did a survey to look at the economic impact of the arts, and we surveyed arts organizations and asked what they were spending. We found out that our total impact on our community is 170 million dollars. We’re putting money back into the community,” said the interim president of ArtsBuild.


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