Opinion: Enhancing arts, cultural programs in City of S. Fulton

City of South Fulton residents, we are listening.

We work each day to make the most progressive and judicious use of the resources you entrust us with to build a stronger quality of life within our city. Recently, we took another important step in that direction with the launch of developing a comprehensive master plan that will be central in guiding arts and cultural affairs programming. We need citizen involvement to ensure our efforts match your vision of how the arts enhance our community.

The nine-month study, spearheaded by an Atlanta-based firm that has done similar work throughout the U.S., will identify ways to elevate visual art, drama, music, voice, dance, live performances, services and classes in the city, while preserving the excellent cultural arts programming that we currently offer. It also will set the pace for our parks and recreation services. Citizen involvement and transparency are at the forefront of all we do, so we will seek public input on the plan to ensure it reflects what residents and stakeholders want.

Vision 2020, as it’s informally called, will serve as the city’s roadmap for implementing priorities the new Cultural Affairs Division will focus on to make art a vital component of the 700 acres of greenspace, 17 parks, multiple recreation centers and world-class performing arts venues throughout the City of South Fulton (COSF).

A viable arts and cultural affairs presence plays a critical role in our growth and success. Studies have shown, and we know from experience that arts stimulate economic growth by attracting restaurants, retail and positive development that promotes local spending and the creation of jobs.

Tourism and commerce without question will surge when the COSF becomes a destination for family outings, entertainment and healthy activities centered on a robust network of historic sites, art galleries, events and festivals that showcase art in all its glorious forms.

In addition to the economic benefits, arts and culture enrich, nourish and educate people of all ages and help build tolerance by celebrating differences, instead of creating silos around sameness.

We are developing comprehensive plans to form a holistic system of amenities that will help our residents grow, thrive and prosper in Georgia’s fifth-largest city.

Too much is at stake to formulate the plan in a vacuum. The thrust to make the City of South Fulton a reality was driven, in part, by a desire to create a government that is truly reflective of the people. That’s why citizen involvement in developing the master plan is as crucial as the plan itself.

Soon after the formal public launch of the planning process in January 2020, we will establish a citizen’s steering committee to facilitate public engagement. Community meetings and design charrettes designed to share information and put ideas on paper will be held.

Vision 2020 also will include recommendations on renovations, repairs and equipment needed for arts, parks and recreation centers.

Now that the secret about the City of South Fulton is out – that we’re a prosperous city where residents enjoy urban, suburban and rural living; affordable homes on sprawling, wooded lots; and easy access to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – expanding our arts and culture offerings will give people another compelling reason to live, work, play and visit.

Tony M. Phillips is director of the City of South Fulton’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs.