By Preston Turegano
Arts Writer

October 9, 2005

As members of San Diego County's arts community prepare a public document advocating "increased public investment" in the arts, the head of the East Coast-based Americans for the Arts is throwing his support behind the effort.

"Arts and arts education are important in our country and in our cities," Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, said here last week during a caucus of arts administrators, employees, leaders and supporters at the Balboa Park Club.

About 200 attended the five-hour gathering billed as "Many Voices, One Message: The Challenge to Act." Deputy San Diego Mayor Toni Atkins and First District council member Scott Peters attended the Wednesday event. Mayoral candidates Donna Frye and Jerry Sanders made appearances later in the day.

The forum was organized by the city Commission for Arts and Culture to write a "white paper" that will make a case for more public funding of the arts, more public art works, increased funding for arts education, and reiteration of the value of arts tourism.

As a result of two roundtable sessions during the caucus, a position paper is expected to be published within a month.

"Some of you will help by lending your names, by lending your voices, or by giving time and expertise, and some with resources," Lynch said. "It's about being together, many voices, but one message. Together, we can bring the arts to one child, or one more community or neighborhood, and if we do it right I think we'll get a better child and a better community, and if we do it enough we get a better people and a better America."

With offices in New York and Washington, D.C., Americans for the Arts is a nonprofit arts advocacy and congressional lobbying organization.

During his talk, which included a facts and statistics slide show and video presentation, Lynch pointed out numerous social challenges the arts community faces in seeking continued government support. Among them: The economy, the war in Iraq, education, health care, hurricane relief efforts, cultural division, changing national demographics and the redefining of communities.

"The arts are a part of the problem-solving mechanism," Lynch said. "We're not just something on the side. We can turn these issues (social challenges) into assets."