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Executive Director, Springfield Regional Arts Council
Executive Director, Springfield Regional Arts Council

2015 Economic Outlook: Leslie Forrester

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Leslie Forrester influences the arts in 27 counties across southwest Missouri.

2015 Projection
Art entrepreneurship and the need for support services will continue to grow.

SBJ: How did state funding for the arts fare in 2014?
Leslie Forrester: It was stagnant. The governor did recommend some increases in funding – about $1 million worth. It went through the House; during the veto session, we lost that. But we didn’t lose ground. It wasn’t as successful as we had hoped as arts advocates, but it’s a step in the right direction. We’re set up really well to hopefully encourage that increase again this year as we start working in the capital in January.

SBJ: How is the Springfield Regional Arts Council involved on the legislative level?
Forrester: We work very closely, and I actually serve on the board for the Missouri Citizens for the Arts statewide lobbying group. We also send advocates from the city. We partner with Drury University to take a busload of people for citizens’ day at the legislature, which is arts focused. On Feb. 11, it will be a whole team of students and arts professionals. We also go to the chamber (Salute to Missouri Legislators) in January. Once again, just making sure the arts are at the forefront and recognized as a vital economic development driver.

SBJ: The Springfield community is known for contributing to the arts. How were donations in 2014? Will you see increases in 2015?
Forrester: There’s a lot of people who are dedicated to a particular type of art form, but most of the time, it’s very much across the board, and we certainly saw that in 2014. I think as the economy starts to make a bounce back, and we see a lot of improvement there, then we’ll also see more support for arts, both in donations and arts participation. They’re both very important. If you don’t have an audience to view the artwork or to come to a show or see the ballet, then we’ve lost a lot.

SBJ: Will arts participation attendance grow in 2015?
Forrester: As we see people’s disposable income become more available and that consumer confidence starts to grow, there’s a lot more discretionary funds that can go to paying for tickets, which has a compounding effect. People who go to performances or to First Friday Art Walk are also buying dinner, they’re also paying for babysitters. They’re helping to grow the local economy. That money stays here to support tax revenues, to support continued growth.

SBJ: Is Springfield on the forefront of art trends?
Forrester: Yes, I would even bargain to say that they are making some of the trends happen. The yarn bombing at the Sun Target – the french fries over at the Art Museum – there was huge community participation around that. People were stopping and checking it out and engaging with a piece of sculpture that most of us just drive by on a daily basis and don’t even think about. They’re reintroducing things to our community that we see every day in a new light.[[In-content Ad]]

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