"Flat is the new up," LexArts president and chief executive Jim Clark declared in announcing the 2010 Fund for the Arts campaign would shoot for $1 million, the same amount it aimed for and met in 2009.
Last year's campaign, in fact, exceeded that goal by $18,000, and Clark said that in light of continued economic woes, maintaining the previous year's goal would be a sign of success.
The campaign started on a more serious note than previous editions, which had been kicked off with big ballroom luncheons or soirees at Spindletop Hall. The 2010 Fund for the Arts campaign launched with a business breakfast and a bit of a civics discussion about the role of the arts in economic life.
Kim Huston. president of the Economic Development Association of Nelson County in Bardstown and author of Small Town Sexy: The Allure of Living in Small Town America, spoke about the role of arts and culture in attracting business and people.
"People come to small towns because they like the life there, but they want nice restaurants with ethnic foods and museums and regional airports," Huston said.
She talked about the concept of "regionalism," in which smaller cities benefit from their proximity to larger cities with more diverse cultural offerings. She cited Bardstown, near Louisville, and Versailles, near Lexington. But she didn't stop at cities as destinations.
"Take your show on the road," she said, encouraging arts groups to perform throughout the state, outside of their home bases.
After the breakfast, Huston said the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra has played in Bardstown several years recently, a gig the Louisville Orchestra used to have.
Huston has spoken to many chambers of commerce and business groups in support of her book, but LexArts was the first arts group to invite her, she said.
"The arts are important to business," she said. "When we have people look at Bardstown, they take note of what we have and what Louisville has to offer."
And business is important to arts, particularly the campaign, which relies heavily on corporate donations and workplace giving.
Connie Jones, campaign co-chair with her husband, Tom Jones, said $250,000 already has been raised for the campaign.
All three mayoral candidates — Mayor Jim Newberry, Vice Mayor Jim Gray and former mayor Teresa Isaac — attended the breakfast, which was at ArtsPlace.
Newberry spoke in support of the campaign and highlighted some arts successes of the past year. Last year, the Lexington Fayette Urban-County Government gave $450,000 to the campaign. As in years past, Newberry did not promise a donation at the kickoff; he has said he prefers to work with the Urban-County Council on the budget before stating a donation.