GREENFIELD — Members of the Hancock County Arts and Cultural Council said interest in arts and cultural activities is on the rise in the Greenfield area, but a full-time executive director could take the arts scene to the next level.
Permanently funding the position, however, could put a hitch in plan for the council.
The council has asked the Hancock County Board of Commissioners for funding for 2016 to help the group establish a full-time employee to promote arts in Hancock County. Representatives also have been in contact with the city of Greenfield about funding options.
But local officials said the group probably missed the boat for securing funding in 2016. Greenfield City Council conducted budget meetings nearly a month ago and approved funding requests from nonprofits.
Hancock County Council conducted its meeting even earlier, and the commissioners told representatives the best route might be for the group to seek a grant for the county’s tourism commission.
Steve Smith, president of the Hancock County Arts Council, first addressed the Hancock County Council about funding for 2016 about a month after the council worked to prepare its budget so it could be advertised to taxpayers.
He then went before the commissioners, who told him the time to request funding for the 2016 budget had passed and requesting a grant from the county’s tourism commission — which receives funding from the county through the innkeepers tax — might be his best opportunity for getting public funds.
The council works to foster, support and promote the arts, humanities, education and cultural activities in Hancock County and the surrounding area. Smith said the arts council would like to hire an employee to spearhead those efforts and further the organization’s mission.
The council has officers and volunteers to help with that workload, but Smith said an employee dedicated to promoting the arts will benefit the organization and the entire county.
“Once you have a full-time person to carry the banner … get the word out, then, the organization takes off,” Smith said.
He cited other local organizations, like Greenfield Main Street, that have hired an employee to help lead their initiatives.
In 2010, the city of Greenfield worked with the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce to help set up a fund to help main street establish a part-time program manager.
It’s important, he told commissioners and the council, to fund the arts because they help improve quality of life for residents, just like the parks and other amenities officials have sought to support.
“Most of these things have always been publicly funded,” he said. “The arts have not.”
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell, who recently met with representatives of the arts council, said the arts council plays an important role in the community. But city council already approved funding requests for next year — including about $200,000 to local nonprofits.
The arts council would have had the opportunity to apply for funding like other nonprofits, but likely missed its chance for 2016, he said.
“What they want to do is very genuine,” Fewell said. “But there are no funds available to fund that type of mechanism.”
The commissioners advised Smith to go through the tourism commission to see if it has a grant opportunity that would cover some of the costs associated with creating a position.
The tourism commission awards grants to local organizations with projects that increase tourism and attract out-of-county visitors to Hancock County.
Dave Scott, who is the director of the county’s tourism bureau and advises the commission, said grant money hasn’t been awarded to help pay for personnel in the past, but the arts council could always go before the commission to make a request.
“They’re very interested in helping as many folks as they can, at the same time, there are some legal description for what they can fund,” he said of the tourism commission.
In the meantime, the arts council has a three-year, $7,500 commitment for grant money from local cable provider NineStar Connect, Smith said. It’s money council members say they were grateful to get, but it’s a far cry from what is needed to fund a full-time salary.
Smith says creating a new position for a director will help the arts council continue to build on the success it’s already had.
“It’s an opportunity here to build on something we’ve had going,” he said.