A&E holds the key

Friday, July 13, 2012

Across the country, cities are looking for ways to stimulate their economy, attract new residents and encourage the cosmopolitan life. For me, one of the best ways to do this is through the arts.

When I think about urban areas affected heavily by the arts, places like Manhattan's West Side, Delmar in St. Louis and Chinatown or Wilshire in Los Angeles come to mind. And I don't think it's a coincidence that one of the driving forces of visitors and new business to these areas and others can be a thriving local arts community (as we've seen with the River Campus in Cape Girardeau).

As someone who has closely followed Southeast Missouri's rich collective of arts and entertainment resources for many years, I see the exciting role that arts and culture plays every day, and the intrinsic value it brings to our lives. And it's only getting better.

Take Cape Girardeau's wonderful art community. Art, by nature, can be provocative and cutting-edge. It can inspire and leads us to question, explore, think and exchange ideas. Often, during First Friday with the Arts, I see pieces that are thought provoking and stimulating, thus adding an unexpected element to the urban experience.

This kind of energy and enthusiasm is quick to take hold. It attracts people -- audiences to a performance or visitors to a gallery. As more people visit a community more frequently, momentum grows. People start to stay for dinner or return to visit local shops. Sales result in tax revenue, which support the services that benefit an entire city and its residents.

And those that want to make this energy part of their daily lives choose to live in these neighborhoods, being a catalyst of residential development and creating anchors for new businesses to grow. These thriving cultural centers contribute to a city's overall identity. They are indication that a city is hip, fun, and smart; you want to be there. It elevates a city from just a place to a desired destination, attracting visitors from the surrounding region.

So how does a vibrant arts scene affect an area? The artists, entertainers and people willing to make an investment in their communities start to become part of its transformation. People get passionate, aware, motivated and involved. Sound like good neighbors to me.

But as we explore what's next, let's be sure to continue to foster the strong, growing and innovative arts community that is fixture in our area.

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