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Arts covenant proposed at Cultural Blueprints

Mary Stanley talks about her good idea:

In October the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) hosted over 120 participants from the fields of art, politics, education, tourism, business, economic development, urban planning and foundations for Cultural Blueprints, the all-day local edition of a series of meetings across the state to encourage arts as the basis for development and tourism. NYSCA hoped to spark cross-pollination, partnerships and resource-sharing.

Among the key points reported back from the break-out sessions was Mary Stanley's "arts covenant" -- an idea that provoked applause from participants and has twice been noted in the daily paper. Stanley coordinates the informal working group Art Across Borders and in years past was a host of WAER-FM's Women's Voices Radio talk show. Last Friday we sat down for coffee and talked further about the "arts covenant."

What happened when you proposed an "arts covenant" at the Cultural Blueprints gathering?

Actually I raised the idea in two of the smaller sessions. People were either enthusiastic or like, "What's that?" Then in the end it was one of the recommendations to the larger group and the spokesperson asked me to explain it. I did and it was really well-received. People applauded. I think people are looking for a fresh way to look at the arts and development and this resonated.

The word "covenant" has some rich connotations. Can you talk about what "covenant" means?

A covenant is more than a contract, stronger than a pact. It's a deep, profound commitment among people who see themselves as community. They're promising what they'll do in the name of something they value. We talk about "civic engagement" and I think it ties into that. Sometimes it's had some religious dimensions, harking back to the old and new covenants of the Bible. So it expresses a profound relationship with something higher, a spiritual aspect of our humanity that's more than the everyday. It ramps up our thinking about the importance of art to a good life. At the same time it helps us target where we each decide to spend our money.

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