Arts supporters in San Bernardino County believe there is strength in numbers.

And after a seven-year absence, they've gotten together to come to the aid of artists, art organizations and nonprofits. The new group is called Arts Connection, and it recently launched with a get-together in San Bernardino.

"Arts Connection is an initiative that has been in the works for the last three years. First, with a core group of arts people led by Daniel Foster, formerly executive director of the Riverside Art Museum, then the Community Foundation of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and now executive director of the Oceanside Art Museum. Then a task force of more than 75 people invested in the arts in San Bernardino County got together," said Rebecca Trawick, the director and curator of Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga.

She was one of the founding group of local members along with Susan Sluka of Rancho Cucamonga and Teresa Hanley, director of the Museum of History and Art, Ontario, who served.

The group looked at eight California council models to determine what would work for San Bernardino County. More study and meetings followed before a decision was reached.

This new group replaces the San Bernardino Arts Council, which folded for financial reasons.

The difference this time, however, is that a large group of art lovers have included the entire county in their efforts, and there is seed money.

County supervisors donated $110,000, the James Irvine Foundation contributed $150,000, and other gifts from Bank of America and the California Arts Council have placed the nonprofit on firm financial footing. It now has about $300,000 to work with. Supporters are excited.

Trawick was asked a year ago to serve on the connection's board.

"The county supervisors were generous and valued the arts and their valuable impact on industry and enrichment in communities. They gave us money to start us off along with grants from Bank of America and the Irvine Foundation," she said.

"The Arts Council is back and ready to start serving the arts in our county."

The board hired Andy Woods as its executive director. Woods is an artist himself and a former executive director for the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council.

Office space has been donated by Cal State San Bernardino, which not only saves the nonprofit money but puts it smack dab in the middle of the respected arts community on campus.

It's a win-win all around.

Foster said San Bernardino County deserved to have an arts advocacy organization, and now that it does, supporters are eager to get to work.

"The value of Arts Connection is to raise all the boats in the water," Foster said.

Its job will be to serve the hundreds of organizations already in place, to serve the thousands of artists who call San Bernardino County their home and to serve the hundreds of thousands of arts patrons ready and willing to appreciate art in all its forms.

"What the Arts Council is is a collaboration, a sustainable one, built by people in the arts community to serve the arts community," Foster said.

"What the council wants to do is to help market the arts organizations and their events already in place in local cities. The council wants to come up with a master calendar. It wants to foster collaborations so money spent on events can go further.

"It wants to be a source to try and bring home external money from national arts organizations. Basically, it wants to be an advocate and voice for the arts, showing how important they are to the economic success of the county but also to the quality of life of its residents."

All communities want excellent schools, affordable and available health care, strong public safety programs and a full and active arts culture, he said.

Together, all of these factors make up a terrific quality of life. Promoting the arts is a good sound investment in the future, he said. 

"The idea that you have to go into Los Angeles to enjoy the arts is a myth. San Bernardino County is more than capable of meeting those needs. The council just wants to connect the population with the local arts," he said.