Blue Flower

Charlie Mitchell: Words from the City of Grants Pass

It is a difficult task at best to determine the economic benefit of the arts to our economy. This is in part due to the fact that as an industry and an activity, it is still yet relatively new and difficult to define and quantify. At this stage, most of the arts’ benefits tend to be somewhat intangible and tertiary. This does not mean, however, the benefits are insignificant. It just means that we need to begin doing a better job of quantifying the benefits and the impacts of the arts on our community and our economy.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, I offer the following as a short and non-exhaustive list of the importance and benefits of the arts locally.

Question: What business-sponsored event draws droves of locals and others to our downtown monthly, and is still increasing in popularity, even after over 10 years of existence?
Answer: First Friday Art Night.

Question: In an attempt to draw more tourists into the community in the “shoulder” fall season, what activity did the City’s Tourism Advisory Committee choose to center its new fall festival around when it formed the event in 2003?
Answer: the arts; as in Art Along the Rogue. (now the largest event of its kind in the Northwest)

Question: What event has propelled the popularity, respect, credibility and name recognition of local artists to unprecedented levels?
Answer: Bear Fest.

Question: What vision has been bringing community leaders together who normally “don’t run in the same circles?”
Answer: The commercial bronze foundry project and the RCC Art Works and Arts Quad campaigns.

Question: What fledgling youth-oriented performing arts movement has risen up from obscurity to local fame in a few short years?
Answer: Connect-The-Dots.

Richard Florida, in his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” defines a recipe for the economic success of communities, based on cities’ abilities to grow and attract “creative” professionals, a somewhat broadly defined subset of workers. The arts are by nature a creative industry, but the arts are really more of a means than an end, more of a catalyst of community change than an independent industry. The arts can change the way a community looks at itself and can change the way outsiders view the community. Florida asserts that a city’s creative quotient equates to economic success. He says, “Certain things will always attract creative people: strong music and film scenes, good architecture, a high quality of life in general.”