Lycoming Arts revamping to better serve local arts scene

For many decades, Lycoming Arts has played a vital role in the local arts and music scene. Since being established in 1960 as the Williamsport Lycoming Arts Council, the organization has alw­ays served to highlight fantastic artistic events in the area, and shows no signs of slowing down now.

Though it has been in the community for a long time, the presence of Lycoming Arts is probably more important today than at any other point in its history, according to data collected by the Lycoming County Comp­re­­hensive Plan and Heart of Williamsport initiative, which have shown that the organization is overwhelmingly identified as the group best equipped to lead the county’s art scene forward.

In response to that data, Lycoming Arts has set out to adopt a more professional profile over the last several months, by conducting a comprehensive restructuring of the organization — which included bringing on a new executive director and board of directors — and adopting an ambitious set of new initiatives.

“When I was appro­ached about the position, I was impressed by the sheer number of independent entities calling for an empowered arts council,” said Lycoming Arts executive director Meg Finn. “I believe we have a great deal of individual talent and a myriad of organizations doing excellent work in the arts. However, as is often the case in the non-profit realm, the power of the ‘parts’ was diminished in the absence of a fortified ‘whole.’

“Lycoming Arts serves to organize the arts in order to protect, propel and promote the arts in Lycoming County,” Finn added. “Our product is the collective success of all the individuals and organizations contributing to our local artistic prowess.”

Though Finn said Lycoming Arts is prepared to “run point for the arts,” the group has no plans of reinventing the wheel.

“Whenever possible, we will work to polish and empower what is already working and will only introduce new programming and initiatives if there is an identifiable deficit,” Finn said. “We are not here to compete. We are here to collaborate.”

One major area that the organization has been working on recently is improving its own brand. Because the group has seen many names throughout its history, including the Arts Council, the Arts Alliance and Lycoming County Celebrates the Arts, the community has had some level of confusion as to what the call the organization now.

“While our legal name is the Williamsport Lycoming Arts Council, we are Lycoming Arts and we will remain Lycoming Arts,” Finn said. “As we move forward with constancy, this will become more clear and our brand will be better understood.”

In that same spirit, Finn said Lycoming Arts plans to make major overhauls to its website, www.lycomingarts.org, which will make it more user-friendly and a better tool for area residents and incoming tourists.

“A comprehensive, content-rich site would allow us to be a virtual one-stop shop for all things art, culture and heritage,” she said. “When the Lycoming Arts site reaches its full potential, we will have a tremendous impact on the successful marketing of our artistic assets.”

In improving its website, Finn would like to see Lycoming Arts institute a “cultural calendar” to help those in the community know what is happening in the area, and to prevent the number of overlapping events by local arts organizations.

“While I am aware calendars have been launched in the past, this topic-specific calendar will be a powerful tool,” said Finn.

Another big thing Lycoming Arts has in the works is the development of a culinary arm of the organization, which will help shine a light on the county’s outstanding cooking talents.

“I firmly believe that the culinary arts deserve to be recognized and celebrated,” said Finn. “Excellent restaurants are a true asset to our area for both locals and tourists alike. When I am entertaining guests from out of town, I am always extremely proud of our local eateries.

“I have been fortunate enough to dine in some of the best restaurants in the country and I can definitively say that Lycoming County more than holds its own,” she added.

Recently, Lycoming Arts was made the official manager of First Friday, which is a monthly festival serving as a dynamic celebration of art and culture in the community that lines the streets of downtown Williamsport with artists, artisans and musicians.

“Managing First Friday is an honor and a privilege,” Finn said. “For years, the Williamsport Business Association did a great job of keeping First Friday running. However, they need to be free to do what they do best — run their businesses. Having a single entity run point will improve our ability to balance and coordinate First Friday activities.”

In order to better run First Friday events, offer gallery space and operate long-anticipated programming, Finn stressed the need for Lycoming Arts to find a physical home. She said that currently the organization is in negotiations to occupy a “fantastic venue” in downtown Williamsport.

With well over 650,000 businesses in the United States being involved with the creation or distribution of the arts, nearly 3.5 million people are employed by these companies, according to a 2017 study by Americans for the Arts. This means that over two percent of all US employees have a hand in the industry, which only makes the work of Lycoming Arts all the more important to the county’s bottom-line.

“The arts are too often dismissed as sentimental or frivolous,” Finn said. “In actuality, the arts are a powerful economic driver.”

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