Georgia arts, culture and bees

Moderated by Rick Badie

Today, we highlight Georgia’s dynamic cultural community. The head of the Georgia Council for the Arts explains that organization’s mission to enhance and promote the region’s “creative industries,” a growing sector of the state’s economy. The companion essay, written by the executive director of the Atlanta mayor’s office of cultural affairs, notes the importance of arts education and the city’s Cultural Experience Project. Finally, read about a pesticide ban at Emory University.

The arts are a vital state cornerstone

By Karen L. Paty

As Georgians, we know our state is an inspirational place to live and work and that it is as rich in its cultural resources as natural ones. Georgia artists such as Otis Redding, Flannery O’Connor and Benny Andrews shaped the course of music, literature and visual arts in our state, country and world. They are just a few names in a lineage of Georgia’s artistic ancestry that has molded the course of popular culture and bred our robust and thriving arts community.

For each artists’ name that becomes indelibly etched on pop culture consciousness, there are thousands of others in our state who may be less known, but whose impact is just as profound.

According to the 2012 Nonemployer Statistics, Georgia is home to 19,433 self-employed artists. They are a vital component of a thriving sector of our economy: the creative industries. The creative industries in Georgia represent nearly 5 percent of the state’s employment and $29 billion dollars of annual revenue. These numbers tell the story of the significance of the creative workforce and define our state as a place of inspiration, ingenuity and innovation.

Fueling this cultural ecosystem is the nonprofit arts community; the state’s visual arts, dance, music, theatre, literary arts, cultural arts centers and presenting houses. In Georgia, this sector includes approximately 2,400 organizations with assets totaling $2.5 billion dollars. These organizations are caretakers of our cultural identity and successful businesses that contribute to our local and state economy through direct expenditure and by stimulating local spending. However, the public value of these institutions has deeper roots and a wider reach than statistics alone.

Arts and culture, and the individuals and organizations that uphold, propel and champion them locally, are intricately connected to the success of our communities. The arts are a vehicle to transfer and celebrate local history and culture and to develop a sense of community by defining a collective identity of place. These shared identities tell a collective tale of what makes us distinctly and uniquely Georgian. It is a story of a state that is vibrant, diverse, rich in cultural traditions, and poised to be at the cutting edge of industry and innovation.

Education is inherent in that success both now and in the future. Arts education prepares students to be entrepreneurial, critical thinkers and creative problem solvers – critical 21st century skills. The benefits of arts education include higher test scores, attendance rates, and graduation rates, to just name a few.

The potential of the creative sector in our public life requires collaborations between artists, the public and private sector. It takes organizations, institutions, government and industry to leverage resources to create a vibrant, thriving Georgia that values and employs the arts.

Let us not forget that Georgia art belongs to each of us as a contributor, participant, audience member, observer and advocate. The arts are not an accessory to a vibrant Georgia, but the cornerstone of it.

Karen L. Paty is executive director of the Georgia Council for the Arts.

Art changes young lives forever

By Camille Russell Love

The idea for the Cultural Experience Project was born out of a trip to a museum with my teen-age daughter and her boyfriend.

One afternoon I asked my daughter, a recent APS high school graduate, to have her boyfriend, also a recent graduate, meet us at the Woodruff Arts Center to take in a current exhibition at the High Museum.

His response: That he’d never been there, didn’t know what it was or where it was. It was an “aha” moment for me.

I know arts and culture can have a meaningful impact on people’s lives in encouraging discovery, inspiring creative and intellectual stimulation and building cultural bridges. The simple act of allowing students to expand their educational experience through a cultural field trip can have lasting effects; the Cultural Experience Project provides that opportunity for all students in Atlanta Public Schools.

It’s my belief that the sooner a person is introduced to the arts, the deeper the connection and benefit. Exposure to the arts has real-world applications. They make our youth more competitive and creative as businesses look for innovators and problem-solvers in tomorrow’s workforce.

Here are a few facts from studies done by The National Endowment for the Arts and the RAND Corporation:

* Eighth-graders who had high levels of arts engagement from kindergarten through elementary school showed higher test scores in science and writing than did students who had lower levels of arts engagement over the same period.

* Middle and high school students who had high levels of arts engagement were more likely to aspire to college.

* Socially and economically disadvantaged children and teen-agers who have high levels of arts engagement tend to do better on a host of academic and civic behavioral measures than do at-risk youth who lack arts backgrounds.

* At-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, levels shown by the general population.

Every student deserves to experience our city’s premier arts institutions. My office took the lead in creating a cultural field trip program. To make it work, we had to recruit cultural and philanthropic partners to provide free admission and transportation to the schools or students.

Teaching materials are created to enhance the field trip experience and connect to work done in the classroom.

The Cultural Experience Project starts its 10th year this September. The program provides every APS student with a visit to one cultural venue every school year. To date, the program has provided more than 300,000 admissions to plays, concerts, dance performances and museum trips. We have created a model that works due to collaboration with Atlanta political, business and community leaders, and with the support of our city’s cultural venues.

Our hope is that other cities will be inspired and start a Cultural Experience Project of their own. The rewards are many, as we see how the arts change the lives of students. Many gain confidence, excel in their schoolwork and create brighter dreams for their futures.

Camille Russell Love is the executive director of the city of Atlanta mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Curbing pesticide threats to bees

By Berry Brosi

Bee populations are declining and several culprits contribute: parasites and diseases, pesticides, lack of flowering plants to feed on and management practices. Scientists, conservationists, government agencies, and beekeepers are working hard to figure out ways to reduce these challenging problems; it remains a challenging task.

One concrete action we can take is to reduce exposure to pesticides that can harm bees and other pollinators. Recently, Emory University announced that it will take an important step toward protecting bees by banning a class of pesticides known as “neonicotinoids.”

Though relatively new on the market, neonicotinoids are the most-used class of insecticides on earth. For example, one chemical in this class, Clothianidin, is used in the production of the vast majority of corn grown in the United States. Neonicotinoids are also commonly found in many household garden chemical products and greenhouse-grown ornamental plants that are pre-treated prior to sale in nurseries. Some nurseries in the U.S. are refusing to sell plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids, but most nurseries have not followed suit.

Scientific evidence has been mounting from a range of studies that neonicotinoids are particularly damaging to bees. Neonicotinoids not only kill bees, they can also affect them in other ways. Even at low concentrations, sometimes measured in a few parts per billion, neonicotinoids can impair bee immune systems, learning, foraging, and navigation.

Bees provide us with one of every three bites of food that we eat via pollination of food crops. Crops that are dependent on bee pollination represent many of the most nutritious and vitamin-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in our diet. Bees also contribute to our economy in unexpected ways, like the pollination of cotton. Pollinators also play a critical role in natural ecosystems by pollinating wild plants.

Research journals recently synthesized available studies on neonicotinoids. This review clearly shows that these chemicals are accumulating in water and soil and that their use can have negative impacts on species beyond pollinators, including birds. The EPA is now conducting a full review of the safety of neonicotinoids but the results are not expected until 2018.

Emory thinks that is too long for bees to wait. I am proud to work at an institution that’s taken a concrete step toward improving pollinator health.

Berry Brosi, a bee biologist, is an assistant professor of environmental studies at Emory University.


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