Begging to be surveyed

Published 3:00 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

By Wayne Andrews

Currently, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council is serving as the coordinator for a county-wide economic impact study.  The yearlong project is part of a national study conducted every five years by Americans for the Arts. The National Study is occurring in 300+ communities large and small across the United States.  Lafayette County is the only community in Mississippi to participate in the study. Measuring the impact of the arts demonstrates the value of small businesses to our community.  The recent blues festival hired local sound, rented a local venue, attracted visitors who stayed in local hotels, and added to the quality of life in our community.

This is why the Arts Council works hard to conduct surveys at local arts and cultural events, compile a list of arts and cultural organizations within Lafayette County to document the health of our creative community, and coordinate with these organizations to share budget data to document the impact these events have on our community.  Having reached the halfway point there are a few lessons that our team has learned.

A few people doing a lot of work.  It has always been true that in non-profit and community work small staffs are working hard to manage programs with a large impact supported by a core group of volunteers.  It is true of programs regardless if the program is feeding the needy such as The Pantry or promoting filmmaking in Mississippi and creating an annual festival that draws visitors such as the Oxford Film Festival.  What was true before COVID has increased as budgets changed, staffing became more challenging, and the need for support within the community has extended beyond the high point of the pandemic. The ripples are still impacting the organizations from a decrease in volunteers and an increase in the cost of providing programs.

Documenting Impact.  Conducting an economic impact study requires capturing data both from those attending arts and cultural events and the host organizations.  Adjustments made during COVID including ticketless admissions, virtual programs, and social distancing has made talking with attendees from concert to conferences that occur in Lafayette County to collect data more challenging.  While hybrid events offer numerous benefits increasing access there is an increased challenge to document participation.  This is felt on the organizational side as many groups have scaled back staff or increased workload to account for these new virtual elements stressing their ability to capture data.

Being Representational.  One of the discoveries the study team learned in preparing for the project was the range of organizations within the community.  The project strives not to document just the largest or most well-known programs but to capture data that is reflective of the community.  Lafayette County has a thriving diverse community.  The influence of the University, technology companies, and a medical center make Lafayette County a hub for the region which becomes reflected in the arts and cultural experiences available to residents.  Building connections that ensure the survey documents the impact of all residents is worth the time invested.

Your participation matters.  If you are attending art and cultural event in the next week, month, or yearend you can support both the program and our community if you are asked to complete a survey please take a minute to answer the short questionnaire.  If you are organizing a local art or cultural event the Arts Council would be happy to provide surveys to your organization or schedule a volunteer to survey community members to ensure your program is counted.  

Here are a few upcoming opportunities for you to both enjoy the cultural richness of our community and share how these programs impact our community:

Thursday, Oct 20

Thacker Mountain Radio 6 pm at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center – free

Oxford Comedy presents Oxford Board Trodders at The Growler! The Oxford Board Trodders bring you a ghoulish gauntlet of head-to-head Improv challenges featuring stand-up comedy from the hilarious Martin Morrow (as seen on Last Comic Standing). Free show with doors at 7 p.m. (suggested donation $10). 

Friday, Oct 21 

Southside Gallery  Side x Side Artist talk with Blair Hobbs and Maude Schuler Clay 5:30 PM free

Saturday, Oct 22

Lafayette County Arena hosts the regional Barrel Races.  Racers compete for buckles and prizes at this regional event.  The event starts at 10 AM with racers at 2 pm.

One Night Stand Motel Art Show at the Ole Miss Motel. One night only, twelve artists will transform a motel room into their own gallery for the evening.  Early Bird Hour admission 5pm is $24 with the event free and open to the public at 6 p.m.

Wayne Andrews is chairman of the YAC