Group: Arts need more support

Published 11:01 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A group of arts-minded Suffolk residents and leaders convened last week with the purpose of developing more community support for the arts.

Bob Stephens, the facilitator of the Community Action Coalition, gathered the artists, educators, arts organization administrators and others to discuss the topic.

“If the arts does not get the support it needs, it flounders and winds up not reaching economies of scale,” Stephens said. “There’s more that the community can do.”


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The first meeting included 10 people from around the city. All agreed that the arts do not receive as much support from the community as they should.

“The community does not support arts as a whole,” said Joleen Neighbours, the choral and theater arts director for Nansemond River High School.

Most agreed that lack of support for the arts in Suffolk has been a perpetual problem.

“It is the greatest asset,” Stephens said of the arts. “It’s not just an economic driver, it’s an equalizer from a social perspective.”

Paul Lasakow, the outgoing director of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, agreed.

“I believe the arts and arts education are a solution for many, many social ills,” he said.

The group talked for about an hour, concluding that something more needs to be done.

Neighbors called the goal “cyclic.” She said that if enough people see how the arts support the community, then the community will support the arts.

“The main thing is to have the community behind you to begin with,” she said.

Another meeting was agreed upon, but the date has yet to be set. For more information on the upcoming meeting, email