As a small state, Delaware is a place where true statewide collaboration is easier to accomplish. That’s what the Delaware Arts Alliance is hoping to take advantage of as it launches a community engagement effort that organizers say is the first of its kind in the nation.
The Creative Economy and Cultural Tourism Recovery and Growth Plan aims to draw input from artists, creative business owners, and art patrons through a survey designed to capture both quantitative and qualitative data about arts activity in the state.
“The input that we receive from Delawareans over the coming months will provide the data needed to form the actionable recommendations that we will then bring to our policymakers and decision-makers when this plan is released by Summer of 2024,” said Neil Kirschling, the executive director of the Delaware Arts Alliance.
Rather than hearing issues anecdotally, this will show stronger data that could help people like Jordyn Gum. A native of Seaford, Gum is both the owner of Nantico Studios and a filmmaker within the creative industry. Given the industry’s challenges in Southern Delaware, she regularly travels between Delaware and Philadelphia.
For Gum, some of those barriers are the lack of opportunities and the need for resources to grow in the creative business.
“Sussex County, it’s small. Historically, there hasn’t been a lot of opportunities to grow my business, so that’s why I felt the need to, I had to move to Philadelphia,” she said. “For me, a big challenge was, I don’t know who to ask [questions] to understand what’s going on, talking about filmmaking and talking about how do we secure a location permit? Well, if there’s not an operational film office in Delaware, do I go to the city? Do I go to the state? Do I go to the county to get those permits? Who was that person?”
As she continues to grow in her business, she expresses a desire to work full-time in Delaware and to be a financially sustainable, independent production company.
“The cost of doing business has gone up not just in our sector, but across all sectors,” Kirschling said. “Something else I hear from a lot of small business owners in the arts is just the difficulty of starting their business and some of the barriers that they face.”
Kirschling aims to identify and remove barriers, as well as implement various practices or models that could help Gum and other artists.
As part of the initiative, Gum is now one of the 10 community engagement captains. She represents both Sussex County and the filmmaking community, fostering connections and engagement with the local residents.