OPINION: Supporting local art creates community, stability

Local artists put their work on display at the Manhattan Arts Center for the "Wrap It Up! Art Exhibit and Sale." The event will be running until Dec. 24, 2016. (Nick Horvath | The Collegian)

The Manhattan Arts Center began its annual “Wrap It Up! Art Exhibit and Sale,” which features local artists and their work, on Nov. 7. Pottery, paintings, scarves and ornaments are just some of the items available to buy.

Obviously, this event proves useful for those of us who aren’t great about buying holiday gifts ahead of schedule. There’s bound to be something your family or significant other would like at the sale. They even gift wrap it for you — thus the event name. Problem solved.

But buying a mug for your mom or a necklace for your girlfriend has ramifications that reach far beyond Poyntz Avenue. Supporting local art is incredibly important, as it adds strength to the community and the artists involved.

Research by the University of Pennsylvania has shown that “a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare and lower poverty rates.”

Michele Ward, marketing director of the Manhattan Arts Center, agrees local art has a positive effect on the area surrounding it.

“The local art scene helps set the tone for a town,” Ward said. “Offering people of all skill levels a place to both create and display art pours over into a community’s everyday lives, increasing the inventiveness and cultural awareness within the community. There is a sense of both past and future in art, which makes for a really well-rounded way to move a community forward.”

Don’t we all want to make Manhattan a better place to live? That alone should be reason enough to support local art, but there are even more rewards than a positive community response.

For me, there’s a unique aspect that comes from buying local art that you just can’t get from buying a vase at Target. Knowing there’s a story to the piece and the artist put so much time and effort into one individual work, as opposed to something manufactured on an assembly line, makes the piece that much more special.

If you support local art, it can also further inspire the artist who created the piece. Penny Cullers, local artist and artistic director of the Manhattan Arts Center, said she finds personal enjoyment when events like “Wrap It Up!” are well-received.

“As an artist who has sold two paintings in the first week of ‘Wrap It Up,’ I can say that I have been inspired to return to my unfinished canvases knowing that there are people who will be treasuring what I have made,” Cullers said. “By supporting local artists, you support their ability to continue to give those gifts to our cultural future for our children and our children’s children.”

College students can easily find ways to support local art firsthand and they should. This is, after all, the time in our lives when we’re encouraged to explore all creative aspects and see what appeals to us. Supporting the local art scene is easily the best way to do so.

“College students can volunteer here at MAC or at many of our other museums and galleries,” Ward said. “Art is not just found in museums, it’s in our homes and workplaces … College students will find that the local art scene is one of a kind.”

K-State students can also find joy in creating art themselves. There are so many different mediums to choose from. For example, Regan O’Rourke, junior in communication studies, designs her own jewelry.

“I can do almost anything I want,” O’Rourke said. “It’s also a hobby I can share with others.”

Supporting local art is a wonderful way to spread joy this holiday season, to the artists, the community and the person receiving your gift.

“We all have a passion for our town and it is a joyous part of the holiday season for us all to gather under one roof at the Manhattan Arts Center to bring quality art into the lives of our fellow Kansans,” Cullers said.

Bottom line: Getting a nice gift is one thing, but supporting the local art is invaluable to the Manhattan community.

If you want to be a part of supporting local art, “Wrap It Up!” will go until Dec. 24, excluding Thanksgiving. Hours for the Manhattan Arts Center can be found at its website.