Residents may associate a new art gallery with higher taxes, but they are being encouraged to see it as an investment in the economy.
To support its plans for a new facility, the Vernon Pubic Art Gallery says culture can have a positive impact on stimulating job growth and expanding the tax base.
“We need to invest in our community to attract outside businesses and young professionals as well as keeping our young people here,” said Dauna Kennedy Grant, executive director.
She points out that many companies and families looking to relocate will consider what amenities a community has to offer.
Culture also plays a role in tourism, according to an economic impact study funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
It states that tourists who attended cultural activities spent $8 billion in 2007 while sports tourists spent $2.1 billion.
Among the items cultural tourists spent money on are transportation ($2.4 billion), accommodation ($1.6 billion) and food and beverages ($1.6 billion).
Kennedy Grant insists that she’s supportive of sports and recreational activities as well.
“We need to balance this community. Sports is important but so is arts and culture,” she said.
“Arts and culture can’t be put on the backburner.”
The study states that Canadian travellers accounted for almost two-thirds of spending by cultural tourists in 2007 ($5.2 billion). Overseas tourists spent $1.5 billion and there was $1.4 billion generated by cultural tourists from the U.S.
In 2007, the economic impact of cultural tourists in B.C. was $956 million.
The Vernon Public Art Gallery has initiated a planning process for a potential new facility on 31st Avenue. It could also possibly include the museum.
But a $5 million art gallery comes at the same time that the regional district is considering the fate of the Vernon Recreation Complex, which needs $2 million in repairs.
“It shouldn’t derail other projects in the community,” said Kennedy Grant of the recreation complex.
“We need to invest when times are difficult so we don’t have a stockpile of projects that need to be done all at once. We need to look at the well being of the community and that includes arts and culture.”