State of the Art(s)
State of the Art(s)
by Gina Beavers, Staff Writer
Americans are naturally competitive; we’re always trying to find a better way to be better than each other—it’s just how we roll. So it comes as no surprise that we love polls, stats and rankings—especially when we come out on top. States are no different and if you live in Massachusetts you should feel pretty proud. According to www.StateMaster.com we’re number three in most educated, and we’re ranked number seven in “livability” (surpassed only by states that have more sheep than people). There is, however, a glaring categorical absence on StateMaster.com; while each state’s GSP (gross state product) is ranked, there’s no mention of the arts and the Creative Economy. On this new economic terrain, we are negotiating the roads a lot differently than before. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are gaining traction, and cottage industry is an old concept with new life. When looking at the new economy, we can’t ignore the Creative Economy; it is a powerful and geographically personal economy that puts people to work using their creative talents. Those talents generate dollars and those dollars drive the municipal, regional and national economies.
The term Creative Economy may make some bristle, and if you identify yourself as an artist you’re usually subjected to a host of unpleasant stereotypes. But lest you think the Creative Economy is an industry composed of a loose league of unkempt artists, the state of Massachusetts defines it as “industry sectors that center on providing creative services such as advertising, architecture or creating and promoting intellectual property products such as arts, film, computer games, multimedia, or design.” One of the most innovative and diverse Creative Economy clusters is in Massachusetts, and over 100,000 people are employed in this industry. That’s a pretty big deal.
Here’s another big deal: last month the Massachusetts Cultural Council (a state agency that distributes monies to 329 Local Cultural Councils throughout the state) granted 5 coveted Cultural District designations across the Commonwealth. Cultural District designation means that a city or town is home to growing neighborhoods with established cultural assets and organizations. Perhaps the most satisfying designation here in Western Mass is Pittsfield’s. Pittsfield’s resurgence from a hollowed out shell-- after the closing of General Electric-- to the Creative Economy driven outpost it has become is ample testimony for the power of the arts industry. It’s also a good place start if you’re curious as to where your city ranks as a comeback contender. Gloucester is another new and surprising Cultural District awardee. And perhaps even more surprising is its Essex County sibling Lynn. What used to be an old dead mill town known as the “city of sin” is using its cultural heritage and the creative ingenuity of its people to become a target in the Commonwealth’s bid for increased tourism.
If you’re pro-art it may seem ridiculous to have to defend its power, but the battle is real. Holyoke’s Mayor Alex Morse and the city’s growing creative sector want Holyoke to join the big leagues; if the city council approves a city funded position for Director of Arts Culture and Tourism, Holyoke may be the state’s next successful Creative Economy experiment. Public support, however, is divided (and short-sighted); as of the writing of this article the vote for the position has been tabled. Councilors wonder if the city can afford the $40,000 a year position; some wonder if they city can afford not to take this step forward. Much like the white collar vulture in the 1980s signaled the death of manufacturing and heavy industry, the Creative Economy is a bellwether for new trends in the American economy.
It has been proven again and again that a state’s Creative Economy can become a driving force in the fiscal revitalization and sustainability of its municipalities. It has also been proven that people who participate in cultural activities develop more positive perceptions about their community. Supporting the arts is simple; our neighborhoods are rife with art and events that celebrate the arts. Festivals, concerts, galleries, and performances are what enrich our communities and expand our minds and spirits. Purchasing one ticket to one event or making a contribution to an organization is what keeps the wheels turning in the Creative Economy. For more information about the Creative Economy in Massachusetts and how you can get involved visit www.MassCulturalCouncil.org
For a terrific list of town and city festivals throughout the state of Massachusetts visit www.ExploreWMass.blogspot.com
www.Visit-Massachusetts.com is another fantastic sight for a list of music, theatre, arts and crafts and more.
Www.TheBerkshires24-7.com is a great site to plan your creative expeditions.
Here’s a sampling of where to get started: