That was the question at the center of a recent panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation talked about the synergy between arts and culture funding, place marketing and economic vibrancy.
Panel members agreed that, while local governments should provide infrastructure and support, the most profitable arts movements aren’t those manufactured by local leaders or investors. Rather they are grassroots movements that rise out of communities organically and grow from the inside out.
With CEOs reporting that arts and culture influence talent attraction and retention, this strategy has garnered more credibility over the past few months in economic development circles.
Some panelists speculated that economic growth in cities with thriving arts and culture scenes might have less to do with the arts themselves and more to do with overall aesthetics, such as recognizable architecture and public spaces as well as the confluence of musical, theatrical and artistic groups. The prevalence of social gathering spots, also known as third places, could also be a factor, they noted.
What’s your view of arts and culture as an economic development strategy? What does it take to make it profitable? Please share your thoughts or experiences below.