Press Release: The Arts Community Has Spoken
February 23, 2011 PRESS RELEASE
Last night the leaders of more than a dozen organizations representing tens of millions of dollars in revenues from the Arts in New Hanover County spoke unanimously in favor of creating the Arts Council now. Cape Fear Economic Development Council ‘s (CFEDC) Forum on the economic development case for the Arts Council drew a standing room only audience at the WHQR Gallery. Attendees heard about the successes of arts programs presented by Azalea Festival, Cucalorus, Wilmington Downtown Inc., Downtown Business Association, Castle Street Arts and Antiques Alliance, Friday Night Art Walk and others. Speakers described how these programs have brought many tens of thousands of visitors, revenues to hotels, restaurants and retailers, and tax revenues that have paid handsome returns to the city and county.
Attendees heard how Arts Councils unify community arts programs, distribute grants to outstanding programs and individual artists, attract new residents and businesses and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Notably, speakers from public and private sector organizations with active programs in the arts were of a common mind on the need to take advantage of the offer on the table for seed funding, consulting support and access to grants and program initiatives offered by the state. All of the speakers agreed the Arts Council would enhance programs and revenues, while bringing leadership and new arts programs to the region.
A handful of vocal attendees favored a private sector only approach or opposed an Arts Council in principal. Others pointed out that nine years had gone by awaiting private sector action that had never materialized, while the state plan brought immediate financial and programmatic support that was needed now.
The unanimous outpouring from arts leaders favoring sustainable economic development and job creation enhanced by an Arts Council support this wise and urgent initiative. The benefits far more than justify the modest investment by the City Council and County Board of Commissioners, and the immediate action required by the State was absolutely necessary as part of the revitalization of our region.
CFEDC believes that public funding for an arts council is prudent for the following reasons:
- Arts events, when well-organized and properly promoted (primary functions of an arts council) generate outsized returns on investment in terms of job creation and tax revenue generation.
- There has been ample opportunity for private entities to step up an organize a cohesive and inclusive arts council in the intervening years since the last regional arts council closed its doors in 2002, yet it has not happened. Once public funding has been obtained, it is highly likely that private funds will follow. As an example, in business, Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loans frequently are followed by private investment in a win-win partnership of public and private enterprise.
- A regional arts council would bring a substantial amount of state tax dollars already paid to the state back to New Hanover County, leveraging the relatively small local investment.
- A publicly-funded arts council would ultimately be beholden to the public and would serve the public interests, rather than only serving the interests of wealthy individual or corporate benefactors.
Particularly in the most budget challenging times, the prudent course for government, as for business, is to make the tradeoffs that provide the greater benefit, while making the difficult reductions elsewhere that thoughtful stewardship of public funds requires. Therefore, CFEDC urges the City Council and County Commission to vote for, and provide matching funds, to launch the Arts Council now.
About Us: Cape Fear Economic Development Council, Inc. (CFEDC) is a NC non-profit corporation founded to fulfill the need for leadership in sustainable economic development and job creation in the Cape Fear region. Our vision for the future economic development of the Cape Fear region is actionable, sustainable and builds on existing strengths of the region. We believe that “quality of place” is the lynchpin of the region’s future. A competitive educational system, thriving arts and culture and natural beauty are guarantees of that quality. The organization is inclusive, culturally sensitive and progressive. We acknowledge the industrial, economic and cultural past of the Cape Fear region and work to move it toward a prosperous future in the new economy.