If you go online to Artscouncil.ky.gov, you'll find a trove of information about programs and resources available to anyone interested in participating in the Kentucky creative industry. In 2014, the Kentucky Arts Council produced an in-depth report on this sector of our economy, and that has served as something of a baseline or a road map for Lori Meadows in her role as executive director of the arts council.
Tom Martin talked with Meadows about how she has responded to the findings of this study.
Martin: First, how do you define creative industry?
Meadows: We were very careful about making sure that the definition that we used was specific to Kentucky. We're looking at the sectors of Kentucky's industries that produce goods or services based on artistic, cultural, creative and aesthetic content.
Martin: When you think of the economy, typical sectors that come to mind include health care, retail, transportation, manufacturing and hospitality. But in terms of "number of jobs," this report places creative industries squarely in the middle of these sectors. Art, especially in the forms of design and media, is so pervasive in today's world. Shouldn't art enjoy more recognition for its value to the economy?
Meadows: We certainly think so. I think people don't realize just how the arts, particularly design, go across every single thing that we use every day. We were very pleased with the numbers that came out. It turned out that there are more jobs included in Kentucky's creative industry than there are in the auto industry in Kentucky, which is very significant.
Martin: So what are some of the key findings in the report?
Meadows: The creative industry in Kentucky employs over 108,000 people. That's extremely significant. That's a total of 60,000 direct jobs, and an additional 11,000 jobs that are creative in noncreative enterprises; that might be something like a graphic designer job at an accounting firm, which you would not think of as part of the creative industry. And then there are a total of 36,000 indirect jobs. So that's fairly significant. That's actually 2.5 percent of Kentucky's total employment, and we know that there are a lot of people who may not be counted in that — they're individual artists, and we don't have those figures. It also accounts for earnings of $1.9 billion, again very significant.
Martin: The Kentucky Arts Council is getting ready to host its second annual Creative Industry Summit at the convention center in Owensboro. Is this conference an outgrowth of this 2014 report?
Meadows: It definitely is. We came out with the report last December. There were several recommendations in the report, and we wanted to get started right away. The timing was very good because two months prior to that, we had just published our six-year strategic plan. And so those tie together very, very close. We've been able to start work on recommendations and we want to both report on the work that the arts council's done and also hear from other people both nationally and in Kentucky that are very involved in the creative industry.
Martin: Anything in particular that you would like to highlight?
Meadows: Yes. On Thursday, we are having a track for entrepreneurs, and there are going to be a lot of sessions that really revolve around how creatives, individual artists, entrepreneurs can look at enhancing and increasing their business. We also have a track for community development, and those workshops are $10 for the entire day. And then the next day is the actual summit. We have a number of panels. We also have some great speakers. Pam Breaux is the CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and they really have a handle on what's happening in the creative industry across the entire United States. She's going to come and talk about what's happening nationally and how Kentucky fits into that particular picture. We also have Leo Vasquez who is with the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking. He will be leading sessions both on Thursday and on Friday, and will talk about how the creative industry fits into all other industrial segments.
Martin: One recommendation of the 2014 report was to expand targeted business services and workshops for the creative entrepreneur. Has the council been following up on that suggestion, and if you have, how have you been doing?
Meadows: One of the things that we have really looked at is how to form more partnerships to enable us to do our work. For example, we have conducted the first Etsy training. We partnered with the Hazard Community & Technical College and we also partnered with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). For people who are not aware of Etsy, the global online marketplace, we helped people actually set up their own marketplace, basically creating jobs for them. We're working with several other partners right now to do the Etsy training in different parts of the state. Traditionally the cultural community tends to not be as broad-focused as it needs to be. We wanted to reach out to the business sector. We have some business training going on right now for entrepreneurs.
Martin: Tell us about your partnership with the University of Kentucky's Cooperative Extension program.
Meadows: We've been working with them in a few different ways. They have several fine arts extension agents. Right now there are three in different places in the state, and we fully support that. We would love to see that program grow in different areas of the state. We work with these fine arts extension agents to make the arts accessible in their communities. It might be through workshops or sharing our exhibits, inviting them to participate in things that we have going on.
Martin: Has state support of the arts taken some blows in the form of legislative budget-cutting? Do you anticipate more of that, or do you see some improvement on the horizon?
Meadows: It really depends on the state budget overall. We have seen a significant reduction in our funding. Our funding from the state has dropped 42 percent since fiscal year 2001. We are very fortunate that the arts council has not been singled out at all. We are basically receiving the same budget cuts specifically over the last eight years that most other state agencies are receiving. So, unfortunately, it has to do with Kentucky's budget situation at the moment. I would like to say that that would improve, and we certainly hope that it will.