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Pearland explores the role for cultural arts in the community

Pearland explores the role for cultural arts in the community

Pearland Mayor Tom Reid has been making a case in recent years for a more organized city approach to promoting the cultural arts. He says the Mayor’s Cultural Planning Committee he formed earlier this year will be an important step in that direction, one that could strengthen Pearland’s arts offerings and harness the arts’ potential to boost economic development. “We could be a destination community, rather than having people go somewhere else for entertainment,” Reid said. Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked Pearland the third-largest city in the greater Houston area. And this year, Reid said, Pearland’s population climbed above 100,000. “With that kind of background, why aren’t we doing something?” he asked. “This is a vision whose time has come. The community is ready.” Reid said he would like to see a new Pearland venue that can host local arts groups, along with special appearances by the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Houston Ballet. Both Houston organizations have expressed interest in performing in Pearland. The mayor also would like the city to develop a master plan that would outline a strategy for developing such a venue, along with an approach for strengthening existing arts resources. The plan would put the city in a better position to seek grant support and donations for cultural arts projects, he added. The ultimate goal here, Reid said, is to build and promote a culturally rich environment that would attract more visitors, appeal to residents and draw more businesses. The practice of economic development through the arts is gaining momentum nationwide, area arts organizations report. Earlier this fall, Americans for the Arts, in partnership with Houston Arts Alliance, announced that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $977.7 million in annual economic activity in the 10-county greater Houston region. “Businesses want to locate their centers of business in a community that promotes the happiness of their employees,” said Pearland resident Heidi Wiess, a member of the mayor’s committee. “It reduces employee turnover and improves productivity. It makes good business sense.” In addition to Reid and Wiess, the Mayor’s Cultural Planning Committee comprises Leann Alvarez, vice president of community development, Pearland Chamber of Commerce; Jon Branson, assistant city manager, city of Pearland; Matt Buchanan, president, Pearland Economic Development Corp.; Cory Cart, destination marketing, Pearland Chamber of Commerce; Richard Graber, director of programs and services, Houston Arts Alliance; John Kelly, superintendent, Pearland Independent School District; Lata Krishnarao, director of community development, city of Pearland; Dion McInnis, associate vice president-office of university advancement, University of Houston Clear Lake; Michelle Smith, director of parks and recreation, city of Pearland; Naomi Stevens, Pearland Arts League; Sherry Stockwell, Executive Magnolia Events; and Joy Weiner, workforce specialist, Alvin Community College. What committee members have discovered is Pearland has a wealth of arts organizations, Reid said, from the Pearland Cultural Arts Alliance to Pearland ISD, which regularly presents theater productions and has a strong visual arts program. “We’ve never taken an inventory of the arts groups in Pearland,” Reid said....

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