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City Lends an Ear

The idea for the get-together was sparked when artist and architect Lisa Taranto ran into City Councilman Bill Pantele at a party. She talked his ear off, she says, about how the city could be more of an advocate for the arts. Pantele asked Taranto to gather some more creatives to talk about possible solutions. A series of meetings culminated into last week’s standing-room-only brainstorming session. The goal was to generate ideas Pantale could take to City Council.

The crowd of about 40 included musicians, like TimbaSon’s Jose Lorenzo and Avail’s Ed Trask (both also painters); visual-arts representatives such as the Virginia Museum’s John Ravenal; performers like dancer Chris Burnside and Firehouse Theatre Project’s Artistic Director Carol Piersol; and a handful of businessmen.

“I thought it was amazing to have such a diverse group of people, and really encouraging” Taranto says of the turnout.

The crowd broke into three small groups with representatives from Richmond Renaissance and the city’s economic-development office. They addressed such issues as the role of the Arts Council, the need for a cultural arts component within city government and the city’s restrictive admissions tax. Participants also cited the need for more public art and a recognition from city officials that the arts are worth supporting.

The meeting came a day after arts-activist group Save Richmond released a four-page report full of suggestions on how the city can “save the Richmond music scene.”

Andrew Beaujon, a founding member of the group, says one of the goals of the report was that “everything had to be really cheap.” The three-part plan suggests that City Council make it clear to state government “that our state capital considers a thriving local music scene to be a vital element of its economic revival.”

It also suggests that the city look to music as a selling point, creating a multiday festival, a CD of Richmond musicians and an entertainment guide — all to be used as marketing tools.

“Richmond is the kind of place that after a while everyone is kind of just beat down by the futility of trying to change things,” Beaujon says, adding that Taranto’s meeting is a step in the right direction.

Taranto is encouraged too, she says. “I thought it was really amazing to be asked to have that kind of dialogue with the city,” she says. “I hope we can maintain the momentum.” The second brainstorming session will be scheduled in mid to late November, she says.

— Carrie Nieman

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