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Estelle Loewenstein: A Passionate Advocate for the Importance of Arts and Culture

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It’s no secret that today’s challenging economic environment has taken a toll on the arts. Budgets have been cut. Attendance and contributions have declined. And although there are glimmers of hope, the recovery is likely to be slow.

But even in the face of such discouraging news, Estelle Loewenstein remains passionate about the arts – and determined to do whatever she can to raise the community’s consciousness about the important roles that culture plays.

“We need to help people understand the significance of what the arts contribute in economic terms, social terms and quality of life,” says Loewenstein, the first vice chair (and soon to be chair) of the Broward Cultural Council.

As a Broward County resident since 1964, she speaks about the arts’ quality-of-life impact from personal experience. “When I came to Hollywood, it was a very small community with very few cultural advantages,” she recalls. “We were always going to Miami for music or dance, and car-pooling the children all over the county for any activities we could find to give them cultural opportunities.”

The subsequent growth of the county’s cultural infrastructure has been “a thrilling experience,” Loewenstein says, and it continues to be a source of pride. She attended a recent Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theatre performance of Pippin, for example, and was delighted to see that the production was outstanding – just like the ones she remembers taking her own children to when they were young.

And she is extremely proud of the ArtsPark at Young Circle in Hollywood, a project that she has supported “from the drawing board” through its opening in 2007. “It’s an incredible accomplishment for the city of Hollywood, a major artistic and aesthetic accomplishment - and it’s an artwork unto itself,” Loewenstein notes. She now serves as a member of the ArtsPark’s advisory board.

Service to the city of Hollywood has been a recurring theme for this seemingly tireless volunteer, who has been involved with a wide variety of civic and cultural organizations ever since she moved here. Initially, her efforts were related to her children’s schools, then later in social services and health care as she pursued a second career in health care. Once her children were grown and she retired from the workforce, her community involvement expanded quickly.

Historic preservation has been a particular interest. Loewenstein a life member and former vice president of the Hollywood Historical Society and serves on the City of Hollywood Historic Preservation Board. She is on the board of the Broward Trust for Historic Preservation, where she has a special interest in mid-century modern architecture. She was the founder and coordinator of an annual tour of historic homes in the Hollywood Lakes area.

Complementing Loewenstein’s commitment to sharing the lessons of the past is an equally strong desire to shape our community’s future in a way that not only celebrates the arts, but also recognizes their value.

“We have to position ourselves in a different way,” she observes. “The arts are sometimes looked at as being frivolous, or only for certain people. They’re often seen as something nice to have, but not something that’s important in a time of economic distress. Unfortunately, the connections aren’t being made to the importance of the arts in the schools and to the job market.

“The creative industries are important to keeping our community vital,” she continues. “We have to start attracting more creative businesses and industries. This is a very different time in the evolution of business and the economic sector.” A very recent and tangible example, she points out, is the ArtsPark. “It was a major catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Hollywood.”

The challenges ahead won’t be easily overcome, Loewenstein acknowledges. But as she prepares to move into her role as chair of the Cultural Council, she pledges to persevere. “We really have to focus our efforts on educating the community,” she says.

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