The Arts Consortium

Jan 19, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Irene Morse

by Irene Morse

There are many articles and notices about visual and performing arts events happening locally in Tulare County. Most of the articles will have, “Member of the Arts Consortium,” as part of the by-line and some will be accompanied by the logo. It is a mystery to most people, however, just what an arts consortium is.

The Arts Consortium is a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization serving Tulare County. Probably the best way to describe the group is to share the Mission and Vision Statement:

The Arts Consortium brings together artists, organizations and art enthusiasts to advocate, promote and provide opportunities to create and celebrate the arts for all Tulare County residents and visitors. Through leadership and innovation, we are committed to preserving our cultural and creative diversity by building community where the arts are a vital part of everyday life.

The history of the Arts Consortium is a long and storied one. Started by a group of arts lovers more than twenty-five years ago, the group rocked along without official status until fairly recently. Members met monthly and discussed ways in which arts organizations could support and promote each other. Consortium members negotiated with the Visalia Times-Delta to have member-authored articles appear in Choices each Friday.

In 2004, AC member, Aaron Collins, had a concept for a grassroots arts event. A few members organized a county-wide symposium called ArtsVoice 2004, intended to examine the state of the arts in Tulare County and channel energies toward common goals. Arts groups and individuals from around the region attended in support of a more unified arts effort. Jim Thompson, then head of the Convention Center, was on the committee and offered to host the event at the Convention Center.

The group determined that lobbying for more public arts support was essential to advancement of the arts. First Arts (and its predecessor project, the First Saturday Arts Market) lobbied the City of Visalia and Tulare County for funding for arts education and development. The City directed funds toward hiring a consultant, AMI, to help draft a City arts policy.

The arts funding that the City established was a result of the AMI report that recommended, among other details, hiring an AC administrative staff member. Executive Director, Caroline Koontz was hired and, together with the board of directors, they began the process of acquiring tax-exempt status.

A portion of the Core Values Statement for the AC reads:

The Arts Consortium (AC) believes that the arts should be universal, affordable and accessible to everyone regardless of age, capacity, limitations or language. The arts build community, add to the beauty of our environment, record our history, are an economic boon and create opportunities for breaking down barriers, reducing levels of intimidation and building bridges.

The AC further believes integrity, consistency, diversity, fiscal responsibility, originality and the power of collaboration are mandates for a successful arts organization.

The Arts Consortium is contracted by the City of Visalia to provide services in accordance to their Cultural Plan. The Tulare County Board of Supervisors has designated the Arts Consortium as the official arts council of Tulare County. The Arts Consortium is the official local partner of the California Arts Council, and has received a State Local Partner Program grant for operational support.

If a person is interested in arts events in Tulare County, is one-stop shopping. This website features arts events, special projects and arts news. For example, within the coming week, three member events will be opening for local audiences: The Visalia Community Players opened the play, Doubt, on January 18; the Tulare County Symphony is presenting Bon Vivant! on January 19, and Encore Theatre Company is presenting Disney & Kids, a celebration reunited, also on January 19. There are a number of visual art shows and classes noted on the site as well

Individual member organizations and artists have already been highlighted in Kings River Life Magazine, with more to come during the next few months. Watch for interesting historical and social stories about local artists and arts lovers.

Visalia theater

The Ice House Theatre

If you’d like to know how a 1920s historical building used for years to provide ice to local residents got turned into a beautiful 150-seat theater, you can read about it here in KRL.

Or learn how one woman’s passion for artistic experiences for her son led to the creation of the Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company.

You will see how a group of people who valued history as well as the arts rescued the historic Fox Theater and brought it back to its former glory and how Urban Art has evolved and earned the respect of artists and arts lovers alike.

You may want to know who this fellow is; where you can find him and who has done a charcoal drawing of the statue.

In addition there will be plenty of information about on-going arts events in Tulare County and about the Arts Consortium and its members.

Irene Morse is a freelance writer. When not hanging out with her husband, Gary, and their large family, she enjoys traveling in search of adventure and examining the human condition through drama and community theatre. Read her family’s Christmas story in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Christmas Magic, 2010. Her column on theatre appears regularly in the local newspaper. Email her at irene [at]

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Irene, for detailing the history and nature of the Arts Consortium. Two key people who should be noted for advancing the state of the arts are Carole Firstman and Thora Guthrie, both who were my cofounders of First Arts, which as you pointed out spurred the current City of Visalia arts policy and, in turn, the evolution of the Arts Consortium. Their drive, vision and connections were key to the initiative’s success.


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