The arts provide economic power

Resident makes a case for expanded cultural opportunities in Vernon

The social benefits of the arts on individual and community development has been argued and debated over many tables.

Urban and regional planners, elected officials, and other decision-makers are increasingly focused on what makes places livable. Access to the arts inevitably appears high on that list, but knowledge about how culture and the arts can act as a tool of economic development is sadly lacking and one that always ends up in a debate. It is kind of like using an eight-track player trying to hear music today. Outdated thinking.

It takes me back years ago in Vernon.  The same debate that was had over the arena/performing arts centre decision. We now know how great the performing arts centre has been for Vernon, and that it is not the white elephant that it was stated it was going to be.

This important sector must be considered not only as a source of amenities or pleasant diversions, but as a wholly integrated part of our economies when we decide the art gallery and museum fate.

There are the social and health benefits that we know are important. But the power of the arts is far beyond that.  It is our economy. It is for the life of dying communities everywhere, as young people flock to the larger centres.

However, facts speak. There is a significant body of evidence to support this argument, if we took the time to investigate. To educate ourselves in the industry of the arts. The very places most of our children will earn their livings, or leave our community to find ones that are progressive and creative.

From the early 1980s to now, arts and cultural activity has become an increasing feature of urban regeneration programs globally, as large cities and small industrial towns in particular, sought solutions to economic restructuring and the decline of traditional manufacturing industry.

Taking their inspiration from the experiences of American and European cities, major cities and small towns embarked on ambitious cultural development strategies, often based on flagship capital projects. These strategies were given added momentum by the publications of studies on the economic importance of the arts globally which established the arts sector as a significant, growing and value-added sector in its own right, with a turnover of billions and the employment of millions of people.

Here is my challenge. Google the economic power of the arts. You will find numerous studies and stats to prove what I am asking our city to research. The studies will give the facts to show that direct spending on the arts leads to spending in other sectors of the economy, which in turn leads to enhanced wealth and job creation, and make cities appear more attractive to citizens and companies.

The studies show the far-reaching impact on the cultural sector and strengthen the argument for the economic impact of the arts as a powerful justification for continued public funding.

There has been a generation of impact studies, and other analyses commissioned by local authorities and other public funding agencies, to document and argue the case for the role of the arts and creative industries as important agents for economic development and urban renewal.

There are facts. It is always interesting to me coming from an industry-based community that we know trees and coal are resources. We can see the trees. Cut them down, sell them, make them into something and gain economic benefits. Well the arts offer that same resource. But if you do not have the trees? Well, no economic spin-off. Simple.

I for one hope we choose to build a new public art gallery and museum. I have three grandsons who will be looking for jobs and a community in the not too distant future. I hope Vernon will look forward to become a creative and economically strong community that will hold our children here and entice new people to come and share what I think is the best place on earth.


Michelle Loughery