Mayor William E. Hanna Jr. of Rockville was recently named a member of the newly-created Task Force on the Arts for the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). This new responsibility for Hanna follows closely on his appointment in July by the National League of Cities (NLC) to its recently formed Task Force on the Arts.
Both task forces will be addressing the question of aid to the arts in the cities across the nation.
During his more than 10 years of service to the city of Rockville in appointed and elected capacities. Hanna has manifested a strong concern for the arts. Under his guidance as mayor. Rockville in 1975 added a cultural arts commission to the advisorys boards that provide citizen input to the mayor and Council.
According to Hanna, the arts previously included in the recreation and parks advisory board, were often submerged under sports programs. He encouraged the establishment of a separate arts commission as a means of allowing both arts and sports groups to receive proper attention.
Included in the commission's activities has been the sponsorship of a monthly newsletter on the arts entitled Focus, the encouragement of arts events in public facilities, and the promotion of a century directory for arts groups. The commission is currently interested in the possibility of placing a major piece of sculpture in a public area in the city. It is exploring the possibility of city and federal funding for such a project through the National Endowment for the Arts.
Hanna's original interest in the arts stems from his own participation as an actor with little theater groups. He is still a member of Rockville Little Theater and, according to the company's president, Nancy Nilsson, helps out occasionally although he no longer has time to appear in front of the foot-lights.
Hanna has also been interested in the development of the Street 70 theater company under director June Allen, whom he first met about 15 years ago as the director of a children's play in which he played the part of a giant.
When Street 70's growth brought about its move to Montgomery County, Hanna was among the Council members who felt that the company's connection with Rockville should not be lost. Accordingly, Street 70 still [WORD ILLEGIBLE] under contract for Rockville in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to its responsibilities for Montgomery County. Street 70's retention of a role at two governmental levels is unusual according to Allen.
Hanna said there are practical benefits for cities which promote the arts, apart from personal pleasure for their residents. People who are involved in the arts are apt to be happier people who want to contribute to the life about them, he said, and the results is a better place in which to live.
Business also benefits, said Hanna, by providing the various goods and services that arts groups need to function.
The arts also go a long way toward offsetting anti-social behavior, Hanna said.
"If people are finding satisfaction in their everyday life, they don't go around trying to rip up property," he said.
In 1976 Hanna was one of 15 delegates from across the United States selected by NLC and the State Department to participate in a German-American Conference on Culture and Urban Development in Munich. According to Hanna, the conference brought home to all of the U.S. participants in importance of the government in supporting the arts.
He and the other participants wanted to share of the insights from the German conference with other American cities. An outgrowth of this desire was the establishment of NLC's Task Force on the Arts. According to Hanna, the task force wants to stress that cities should not immediately think of eliminating the arts when budgets get tight. When they do not have arts funds in their budgets, cities should feel it a duty to find some, he said.
When the NLC Task Force met recently in New Haven. Hanna brought along members of Street 70's mime troupe to give a talk and demonstrate their approach to developing community theater. As a result of the presentation, several cities have expressed an interest in the possibility of Street 70 holding workshops in their communities.
The Task Force on the Arts of USCM held its first meeting near the end of October in Washington. At this meeting Hanna and other members listened to representatives of various government agencies discuss possible areas of interaction in the arts between cities and the federal government.
Among the speakers was Carl Stover, director of cultural resources development for the National Endowment for the Arts. In comments after the meeting Stover noted an enormous growth in the arts all over the country and an increased public demand at the city level for more opportunities in the arts.
"The arts," said Stover, "are moving from frill to the main agenda at the city and state level."