Daryl Ward | Andy Glogower Photography

As October brings the promise of cooler weather (and the impending end of hurricane season!), it also shines as National Arts & Humanities Month. Created in 1993 by Americans for the Arts, this month has been set aside for communities to focus on arts and cultural opportunities both nationally and locally. It’s also the largest annual celebration for arts and humanities in the country.

Daryl Ward, the Executive Director of the Polk Arts & Cultural Alliance, is particularly excited by this year’s opportunities. “We’ve certainly been through the ringer the last couple of years related to live events and a decline in our cultural offerings,” Ward noted. “We’re starting to see a refreshed commitment to participating in the shared experiences that arts and cultural events have to offer.”

The Polk Arts & Cultural Alliance is a local nonprofit created in 2004 as the designated Local Arts Agency by the Board of County Commissioners. Serving to create “an environment in which the arts can flourish,” the membership-focused organization provides funding, resources, and promotional assistance to Polk County arts and cultural organizations.

“We’re also charged with supporting our local professional artists,” Ward said. “It’s important to showcase the amazing variety and quality of working artists we have here in our communities.” The Polk Arts & Cultural Alliance is developing an online Artists’ Registry that will offer member-artists an opportunity to have a virtual gallery complete with sample images and contact info for each artist.

Another project in the works for the Polk Arts & Cultural Alliance is the publication of the first edition of the Polk Arts Guide. “We want to create a resource for visitors and new residents that lists all of the respective arts and cultural organizations in Polk County,” Ward said. The guide will feature such categories as Art Museums and Galleries, Live Music Venues, Theatres and Theatrical Companies, Museums and History Centers, and Theatre and Musical Performing Arts Organizations, to name just some of the listing sections. The guide is slated for distribution in early 2023 and will be available at visitors centers, hotels, and chambers of commerce.

Other initiatives sponsored by the Polk Arts & Cultural Alliance include Emerging Artist Grants, which provide funding and professional development to up-and-coming artists; a Teaching Artist Network, a database of available local teaching artists; and partnership opportunities with artists. “We’re so fortunate to have such a supportive county government,” Ward said. “They continue to provide resources for arts and cultural organizations through grants and direct funding. Arts and cultural opportunities are alive and well here in Polk County.”

And what better way to gain awareness of these offerings than by following the Polk Arts & Cultural Alliance on social media. “We’re using our Facebook and Instagram accounts to highlight 31 Days of Local Arts & Culture,” Ward noted. “Each day this month we’ll celebrate National Arts & Humanities Month by focusing on at least one local arts and cultural person or organization.” You can follow the Polk Arts & Culture on Facebook and Instagram (@polkartsandculture) to discover the arts and cultural gems found right here in Polk County. You can also find out additional ways to engage with National Arts & Humanities Month by reviewing the information and links at https://polkarts.org/namh. And finally, you can find out more about the Polk Arts & Cultural Alliance at www.polkarts.org.

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