Earlier this evening, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz delivered his first "State of the County" address in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The location he chose to deliver that speech, the cultural flagship of Western New York and one of the driving forces of the region's ongoing arts renaissance, speaks volumes about the county executive's understanding culture's importance to the identity of Western New York.
And what he said in the speech about the role of the arts here -- something that until very recently a local public would never have acknowledged to the extent Poloncarz did -- will be heartening to the dozens of cultural organizations who lobbied so hard for the demise of his predecessor:
The Albright Knox is just one example of the abundance of riches we have in Erie County including: nationally renowned museums; an amazing philharmonic orchestra; landmarks from architectural giants; and, a thriving theater scene other cities would love to have.
I believe investment in our arts and cultural assets should be no more optional than funding our parks, roads and bridges. Each one of these is an integral part of the infrastructure of our community; some are steel and concrete, others are body and mind. The resident doesn’t need to ‘use’ the arts any more than the need to use every single road or bridge or park supported by their tax dollars to derive a benefit from them thriving.
This is progress. Much more work remains to be done, including the creation of a more equitable approach to funding the county's cultural organizations, and making sure our region doesn't put the cart before the horse when it comes to cultural tourism. But compared to the state of cultural funding and government foresight in this region two years ago, things seem to be looking up.
taggedArt | Dance | Movies | Music | Poetry | Theater