#5 Who We Are Wednesday

What does an Arts Council do anyway? Part 5: Serving the industry of Arts

Who We Are Wednesdays: What does an Arts Council do anyway?

The definition of an industrious person is someone who is ‘diligent and hardworking’. As an Arts Council, we know there one cannot work in the ‘Creative Industries’ without being exactly that; industrious. It take s a lifetime of commitment to become the master of any discipline or craft, but often what is left our of a creative’s wheelhouse is how to communicate with the public about what they’re doing, or that they even exist. We are acutely aware that you can be the most talented person in the world, but if no one knows about you, you aren’t going to make any money from your gifts. As an Arts Council, we saw a need to elevate our industry, so the Creative Directory was born. Or should we say, reborn.

Briding the Visibility Gap

A common phase we hear is ‘Well, there just aren’t many creative people living in Napa’. Oh, really? We beg to differ. Last week in this series, we talked about equity. When the idea of the Creative Directory was originally born, as an organization, we were still experiencing some growing pains, and felt like catering to a membership was a necessity. Turns out, we were misguided by what ‘everyone else’ was doing and not seeing the needs of our own community clearly. The fact is, we have a huge depth and breadth of Creatives in Napa County.  One hurdle is getting some creative people to identify themselves as such. This happens for multiple reasons, but two of the main reasons are:

a) It’s not their full time employment, so despite some people dripping with talent, they view themselves ‘not legitimate’ in their discipline or craft.

b) Their special niche is connected to their cultural background and they don’t view it as something others would want to hire them for.

Why do we care so much about people identifying themselves as artists? The answer is tied to our local economy, and keeping our creative industries healthy. No one magically jumps from non-Creative, to full-time Creative. Every person walks a different path to get there, and just because someone does it part time, or for personal fulfillment, does not make them any less of a Creative, nor does it mean people appreciate their work less when they get a chance to experience it. 

If local businesses, individuals, and organizations hire local creatives to serve their needs, then those creatives turn around and use that earned income in our local businesses, and it becomes a cycle of prosperity. Another reason is that we fight for funding of the arts through our government advocacy work, and the more people we can point to on a platform like the Creative Directory, and indicate their population has a desire to participate in the arts, the more government bodies are inclined to provide funding for that. Every creative counts.

Even creatives who do self-identify need help bridging that gap of visibility. Our Valley tends to hire people for creative work from outside our walls because of the aforementioned misguided belief that we just don’t have the right people here to do the job. Once we realized that true equity meant serving the needs of our whole community, another idea became clear; we need people to know that we have local industrious creative people to hire in Napa County. We needed to give our local creative industry a leg up.

Building a Leg Up: The Development of the Creative Directory

We began building a stand alone webapp, designed to be a search tool for local creatives. Once that basic idea was created, we turned to our community in a beta-tesitng phase and asked for their feedback. What was their opinion about its functionality? You answered by telling us that a directory was great, but it was passive, and as industrious people, you wanted to be able to seek opportunities as well as have people be able to find you. So we created the internal Opportunities Board, which allows people with a Creative Directory profile to look for work, search for professional development opportunities, or seek other creatives to collaborate with. 

We also heard loud and clear that we needed a place for people who love the arts to learn about local events, so the Creative Directory is now home to a Arts & Culture events calendar that caters to Napa County, and Creatives can post their event anytime, for free.

Lastly, we realized that if this tool was going to be used, it was our job to make sure hiring partners within our Valley aware it existed. We also recognized that we had a golden opportunity to educate some of the hiring partners on how important it is to pay local creatives for their work, just like any other service or product provider, so those Creatives have the financial stability to stay in our Valley. That is the work we are engaged in right now. So far, leading up to the full launch of the Creative Directory, which happened June 26th, we have had di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art and the Town of Yountville publicly agree that their hiring will happen through the Creative Directory because it makes their programming easier and they want to support our local creative scene. We are in talks with other organizations and will have more exciting news soon.

It took us just over a year’s worth of work and listening to bring this tool to where it is now. But just like everything else we do, not matter how good it gets, our efforts can always be refined. Do you have a suggestion about how to make the Creative Directory more useful? Send us an email. Want to sign-up so you can be the next person hired off the Creative Directory? Visit CreativeDirectoryNapaValley.com

Are you interested in hiring out of the wealth of creative talent located in Napa County? Send our CEO, Chris DeNatale, an email to learn about how to qualify as an official Hiring Partner for the Creative Directory and earn your Hiring Partner Badge.