Art Connects Us All

In Spring 2020, Jackson County Missouri set out on an ambitious process to establish a strategic plan for arts and culture in the community. The process was designed to engage the diversity of the county – from race and ethnicity to socioeconomic differences and age to the urban core and unincorporated areas to artists and audiences.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the goal of the process was to reach people where they already are to learn how Jackson Countians currently think about, engage with, and access the arts as well as their hopes for the arts in Jackson County. In addition, hope was that we would have an important opportunity to learn about how the arts enhances physical and mental health, a sense of belonging and being connective, satisfaction, and personal growth.

The stakeholder outreach encompassed three distinct elements:

  • focus groups
  • personal story collection
  • collaborative community conversations

To broaden the scope of engagement across the county, virtual community conversations were conducted at two critical junctures in the process.  Collaboration Arts was brought in to design the process as well as provide and manage engagement technology to facilitate these events.

The first conversation was held in October 2021. This community conversation was designed to provide clarity around the meaning of arts and culture, establish the benefit arts and culture bring to individuals and the community at large, and ask stakeholders what would strengthen the arts and culture community. 

Collaboration Arts Collaborative Community Conversation methodology was employed to maximize participant dialogue. Such an approach allows each participant to be heard and see their ideas combined with those of other community members.  Participants were divided into small, facilitated breakout rooms to discuss the same question. Ideas from each breakout were captured, synthesized, and distilled for presentation back to the full group. Using the themes identified, participants then engaged in prioritization exercises.

This was critical information used by the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee in establishing a draft vision, key performance areas, and goals – all of which were considered and vetted at a second series of community conversations in February 2022, using the same methodology as was used in October 2021. 

At the February meetings, stakeholders considered the five key performance areas and their associated goals. Discussions were conducted according to KPA – accessibility, education, infrastructure, partnerships, and marketing. Participants were asked what would be important to pay attention to in each of these areas.

The feedback by community conversation stakeholders echoed and supported support the goals as identified by the CAAC.

The Collaborative Community Conversation methodology allowed effective engagement of the wider community, contributing to its ownership of the vision and support of its implementation.

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