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Chapel Hill arts and culture division wants to focus on sustainability in the future

Dancers at the Near & Far Festival, which is scheduled for April 19th this year. Photo courtesy of Near & Far Festival | Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture.

Chapel Hill residents have a lot to look forward to with festivals and events this year. 

At the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting on Feb. 12, Chapel Hill Community Arts and Culture, the Town's community arts and culture division, discussed the division’s plans for the upcoming year, including what kind of events they want the Town to sponsor and what events the Town just wants to provide resources for. 

“We were talking about our Near & Far festival and the rescue of Santa from the top of 140 West Plaza, just a handful of other events that the Town is the driving force behind: the one that’s doing the organization, the planning, the paying for it, the work, all that stuff,” former Town Council member Rachel Schaevitz said. 

The arts and culture division is also looking to find new partners and new spaces for events. To improve upon the partnership process, Community Arts and Culture has put together a marketing partnership policy. 

“This policy draft is in response to a lot of concerns that were raised by the community, especially by folks on the Parks and Rec commission in terms of bringing some clarity as to who can engage in a marketing relationship with the Town,” council member Allen Buansi said.

The objectives of this policy are to encourage the Town to partner with groups and organizations that share the Town’s values and provide benefits to the Town, and to make it mandatory to have written agreements govern every marketing partnership. 

While it will be some time before the policy is officially addressed, council member Michael Parker said he is in favor. 

“I think it makes perfect sense," he said. "I think we’re trying to make sure that on the one hand, we find ways of working with partners who share our goals, who align with what we’re trying to do and quite candidly can make a contribution to what we’re trying to do, either in-kind or with cash."

At the meeting, a presentation from Community Arts and Culture said they aim to become more sustainable. For example, the division has made the change to no longer buy single-use plastic. 

Parker said the Town Council agrees that sustainability is an important issue to consider. 

“It’s an example of where our goals are aligned. Clearly, the Council has said climate action and addressing climate change is our number one priority,” he said. 

Community Arts and Culture has begun to make these changes in various events throughout the year. For example, the annual Eggstravaganza has been rebranded as being “plastic-free.” 

“So the easter egg hunt that has historically been one of the big town events has more than 12,000 plastic eggs,"  Schaevitz said. "And so we changed that dramatically, and now we have all of these reusable hand-painted wooden eggs that we’re using in the easter egg hunt to advance our sustainability goals.”

This “plastic-free” ideal has been applied to more than just the Eggstravaganza. As a division, Community Arts and Culture is no longer buying single-use plastic. Notepads and colored pencils replaced balloons at Festifall, and hopscotch replaced glow sticks on July 4. The Town has also made the change to only provide compostable plastic to the public.

“In that way, we’re hoping to lead by example, show other kinds of organizations that might be in the private sector that ‘Hey, we just implemented this sustainable practice, you can too,'” Buansi said.

In addition to sustainability, both Community Arts and Culture and Town Council are pushing for inclusivity. The changes made to Festifall are an example of this.

“So we recently moved our Festifall arts festival from Sunday to Saturday so that all of our free transit could be running and make it a lot easier for folks to attend. And we found that we got a much better, and more diverse, turnout,” Schaevitz said. 

Parker said inclusivity is what really gets council members excited about events and festivals held in Chapel Hill. 

“I think number one, what we do continues to demonstrate what a vibrant and perhaps more importantly inclusive place Chapel Hill is,"  Parker said. "I think the way we organize our festivals, whether it’s Near and Far or some of the others, it’s really a way of helping bring people together and show to ourselves, to the broader community, what a diverse place we are and how much we value inclusivity."


@DTHCityState |

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