Art Works Blog

Art Works in Washington State

Olympia, Washington

Letterpress poster for 2010 Festival of American Fiddle Tunes by Pilar McCracken. Courtesy of the artist.
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by Kris Tucker, Executive Director, Washington State Arts Commission

Pilar McCracken made my Friday with the fabulous poster (above) that she designed for 2010 Fiddle Tunes, the annual festival of traditional American music that happens each July at Centrum, a remarkable workshop space at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend Washington. Pilar?s poster is handprinted on an antique letterpress using a combination of wood and metal type, and woodcuts made by the artist. In vivid red and somewhat quirky lettering and symbols, her poster captures the heritage and atmosphere of Fiddle Tunes. It makes me want to be there. And I?m already thinking of who I?ll hear, where I?ll stay, and what other creative experiences I might come across en route.

When I talk about the creative economy, I often refer to Port Townsend and Centrum. Since Centrum was established in 1974 it?s been a place where artists go to create new work and to work with other artists, for students to immerse themselves in the arts, for teachers to refresh their skills and where audiences (like me) can take it all in. And for the local economy, I know that Centrum means jobs, hotel stays, tax revenue, retail sales, and related events downtown and throughout the community.

Arts-related employment, nonprofit income, and arts participation are the kind of data represented in the Creative Vitality Index (CVI), our annual measurement of how the arts contribute to the creative economy of our state. My early peek at the 2008 data shows that Washington state had more than 100,000 arts-related jobs in 2008. These jobs span dozens of sectors of our economy, from fiddlers and designers, to writers and architects. 

It?s been great fun to see the CVI take shape over the years. We started with early conversations in 2003---when ?creative economy? was a new term that had lots of energy but little definition. What we wanted then was an annual measure of the creative health of the state---something remarkably different from an economic impact statement, which included commercial and nonprofit arts activity, audiences and artists, jobs and retail sales. And we needed to use statistically reliable data that would be available annually. 

In the CVI we wanted a tool for tracking---and for explaining---the vitality that the arts bring to the economy in terms of jobs and arts participation. We teamed up with WESTAF (the Western States Art Federation) and the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs to establish the CVI, with the first data out in 2006. New refinements this year have resulted in a better CVI and soon will provide a CVI ?score? for all 50 states and the largest cities.

We?ll have the 2008 Creative Vitality Index ready for release soon, but in the meantime, I?ll be thinking about some great music in a summertime venue with other delighted listeners.

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