The Arts and Economic Development

The Grove City Arts Council is one year old this month. Five of us gathered at the local coffee shop last October, with the invitation from Grow Grove City to start a council. In the past year we have organized, written business plans, and bylaws. We are an official 501(c)3 organization. (That means you can make a tax deductible donation to our organization!)

Grove City is a town of 8,000 people somewhere between Erie and Pittsburgh. It’s a post-industrial steel town with a small liberal arts college. It’s a very traditional place, but the last few years have brought more and more new families to town. My family came in 2009.

I thought I was going to be the only artist in town, but I was wrong. Very wrong. So far I’ve met dozens of artists who have been working quietly alone, hoping for some arts community, but not sure where to find it. Then one day, a group of artists decided to put on a show at the local coffee shop. 300 people came and it was the most lively I had seen Grove City since I had arrived.

Just the other night, a group of artists decided to get together and share our ideas.  We had a musician, a playwright, a novelist, a painter, and a sculptor all weaving common themes. We tossed around ideas and encouraged one another. It was fantastic.

Everyone knows that economic development follows artists. Or, so I thought. It’s hard to quantify, and often hard to convince people, but families want to be in a place that is beautiful and creative. And that means that business want to be there, too. The health of a community’s artists is indicative of the overall health of the community. How can we nourish the artists here in small town, USA?

Right now the Arts Council is dreaming of an arts space. After all, artists need a place to make work, to share ideas over a cup of coffee, to teach classes, to host exhibitions. We need a space to perform plays, read poetry, teach children how to make pottery. That’s what we are working on now.

While I love making sculptures, I also care very deeply about the health of my community. It is part of my responsibility as a healthy artist to help nourish others. How does a small town turn into an arts destination? It feeds its artists. It provides a place for artists to work, free of judgment or worry about getting the floor a little dirty. It shows up at arts events. It buys art.

And you know what happens then? People get off the highway and come to town. (Did you know that just 5 miles up the road is one of the largest outlet malls in America? They have 6million visitors a year. And very few come downtown, sadly.) Can you imagine if they came for a show or an exhibition? Then they would dine at local restaurants and buy from local shops! In Frederick, Maryland, where I lived previously, a research group found that for every dollar people spent on the arts, they spent three dollars at local businesses.

A healthy arts community means a vibrant local economy. Support your local artists today!



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