The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) in partnership with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) released a new industry impact report – “Leveraging Public Investment in the Arts.” This report contains a series of case studies and project studies that illuminate the positive impact of the arts as an economic development tool in Georgia’s communities. Through these case studies, the report demonstrates the importance of the utility of the arts as a method to promote tourism, downtown development, business development, entrepreneurism, community identity and quality of life.
The report, which was released during GMA’s annual convention held June 26 – 30 in Savannah, shares in-depth stories of select Georgia communities that are successfully using the arts as a part of their local economic development efforts. Community projects that are featured in the report were selected based on population, geography, demographics, resources and specific strategies employed by each city.
The community projects featured in the report include:
- Athens and its leaders have invested in local infrastructure, organizations, and public art to give the community a culturally rich atmosphere that attracts and supports the numerous creative residents in their city. Local citizens have signified their backing for the arts by voting to approve numerous arts-focused SPLOST projects.
- The success of Blue Ridge is orchestrated through county support for the arts and culture, Chamber of Commerce coordination with arts organizations to attract tourists, and the vision of private developers to carefully curate their downtown storefronts with unique businesses operated by creative entrepreneurs.
- Duluth is using the arts to differentiate itself from other suburban communities by investing in arts infrastructure. City leadership is the driving force behind their success, exemplified by increased visitors, additional restaurants and shops, and new residential projects.
- Springfield enacted multiple projects to help bring traffic and business to its city center including renovating a historic theater, developing programing and hiring a cultural affairs director to help bring the community’s cultural projects to fruition.
- Arts and culture are deeply infused in Thomasville where creativity has a visible presence along every street. Plans have been made to develop a creative district that will help grow and foster the community’s artistic appeal for years to come.
- The Clarkston Community Center has embarked on efforts to train nonnative artisans to become better artists and business people. This investment is paying off by developing creative entrepreneurs who are becoming self-sufficient citizens by utilizing their unique talents and their culture heritage.
- The case study on Hapeville Arts Alliance shares their unique approach used to create a visual arts gallery in their historic downtown, a space they needed in order to expand the availability of the arts to the community.
“GCA and GMA began this collaboration motivated by a shared desire to provide a platform for Georgia communities that have successfully employed the arts as an economic development tool to tell their stories and share their lessons learned,” said Karen Paty, executive director of Georgia Council for the Arts. “We hope this publication is a resource for local and state government as well as artists, arts organizations and creative entrepreneurs, providing access to the information on what is working here, in Georgia. We hope to add to this body of work over time.”
Georgia Municipal Association’s 2015 annual convention focused on the impact of the arts on Georgia cities, creating the perfect outlet to debut the report. The convention highlighted the powerful impact the arts have on communities by holding arts-focused training sessions, live performances and interactive arts displays. Including these unique learning experiences provided best practices and model programs that helped to inspire community leaders on ways the arts can contribute to the economic development of their own community.
“There is no better place to experience the transformative power of the arts than in Georgia's cities,” said Lamar Norton, executive director of Georgia Municipal Association. "Through active collaboration with artists, entrepreneurs, educators and the creative community, local leaders across Georgia have found unique strategies to leverage the arts to further the economic development and quality of life aspirations of their communities. The impact of these creative collaborations is making a real difference in these communities and we're excited to share them through this joint project with GCA."