Art is an important part of every community. Art makes a community unique, giving it a certain sense of character and style. Artists rely on their local community to attract attention to their work while communities look to artist to attract visitors as well as new residents.
Benefits of art in a community abound. According to the American Planning Association, arts and culture strategies help reveal and enhance the underlying identity — the unique meaning, value, and character — of a community. According to a study done by Princeton University:
Direct involvement with the arts:
- Increases opportunities for self-expression and enjoyment
- Increases sense of individual efficacy and self-esteem
- Improves individuals’ sense of belonging or attachment to a community
- Improves human capital: skills and creative abilities
- Enhances ability to work with others and communicate ideas
- Builds social capital by getting people involved and by connecting organizations to each other
Audience participation in the arts:
- Relieves Stress
- Increases cultural capital
- Enhances visual-spatial reasoning (Mozart effect)
- Improves school performance
- Builds community identity and pride
- Leads to positive community norms, such as diversity, tolerance and free expression
The presence of artists and art organizations in a community:
- Increases attractiveness of area to tourists, businesses, people and investments
- Spurs economic growth in creative industries
- Increases the likelihood of revitalization
- Improves community image and status
- Promotes neighborhood cultural diversity
- Reduces neighborhood crime and delinquency
Local art matters
Tourists will visit a community primarily to attend an arts event. While there, they will spend directly on the event and may also shop, eat at local restaurants and/or stay at a local hotel. To the extent they are spent on local goods and services, the dollars brought into the community by an art event will have a multiplier effect on the local economy.
Art organizations and the prevalence of art events play a role in attracting residents and businesses to locate to a community by improving its image and making it more appealing. This is especially true for attracting highly skilled, high-wage residents. There’s a reciprocal effect, where businesses, especially those in the fast-growing creative industries, are drawn to an area because of the availability of creative talent and highly-skilled workers, and vice versa.
By improving a community’s image, support for local art may make people feel more confident about investing in that community. For example, people might be more likely to buy property in an area they feel is “up-and-coming” because of the presence of the arts. Or, banks may be more likely to lend to businesses in areas perceived as more secure and stable.
Revitalizing a Community
Communities across America take the support of local artists seriously. Phoenix AZ provides grant program awards of up to $10,000 to support community-focused partnerships between arts and non-arts organizations in surrounding towns with populations under 100,000. “Partnerships between arts and non-arts organizations can be effective drivers of economic development, cultural tourism, civic pride, neighborhood revitalization, and youth engagement,” said Executive Director of the Arizona Commission Robert Booker. “An investment in such partnerships is really an investment in the whole community.”
The Main Street Maryland neighborhood revitalization program strives to strengthen the economic potential of traditional main streets and neighborhoods. Using a competitive process, they select communities who have made a commitment to succeed and helps them improve the economy, appearance and image of their traditional downtown business districts.
As one of the cities selected to participate in the program, Frederick has embraced support of the arts as a key ingredient in the revitalization of downtown Frederick. The Downtown Frederick Partnership, who is executing plans under the Main Street Maryland program, coordinates and/or provides support for such events as Alive @ Five that brings music to Carroll Creek Park every Thursday during the summer. Downtown Frederick’s First Saturday celebrations include a guide to galleries and other business displaying art, hosting music or other artistic expression.
The Frederick Arts Council notes that art is vital to our quality of life and helps to build a better community. But, the arts can have more than an indirect impact on a community. According to former Frederick Alderwoman Carol Krimm, art generated about $10 million of local economic activity in 2008 and, as of 2011, Frederick County had 635 arts-related businesses in that employed 1,835 people.
Growing evidence for the support of local art in Frederick (city and county) can be found all around us. Artomatic@Frederick creates community, builds audience and expands economic development by transforming available space into a playground for artistic expression. Artomatic events, which include visual art, performing art, music, dance and film, are socially organic and completely open-entry; there are no juries or curators. Emerging and established artists present their work side by side and have the chance to work with and learn from one another. The diversity attracts the broadest range of people, providing a forum to build institutional connections. Artists, organizations and visitors come together and illustrate the energy, vitality and strength of the arts to impact the community.
As reported by the Frederick Gorilla, last year Jennifer Finley, director of Artomatic@Frederick and founder of the Frederick-based marketing firm The Artist Angle, approached Flying Dog about hanging local artwork in the brewery’s tasting room and combining exhibit openings with local live music. It was a no-brainer for Erin Weston, who handles public relations at Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery. Erin saw it as a perfect fit: “Like the traditional art forms that we think of when we think of creativity, we think of brewing beer as an art form — a form of expression by our individual brewers — a way for them to mix different media in the materials they use,” she says. “So we’re contributing art to our community, and we want to give back to the artistic community in Frederick.”
Mike Diehl, a curator at The Artist Angle who tracks down bands and artists for Support Local Nights, believes “Frederick is an ideal place for an up-and-coming artist to be — it’s supportive of all kinds of creativity. We’re using these events at the Flying Dog to showcase local talent. It’s a great opportunity for local artists.”
Cowork Frederick is doing their part too. Cowork Frederick has been hosting a local artist each First Saturday since they opened their doors in 2012 and recently added music and poetry. Artists are given free use of the Cowork Frederick Community Room, with its gallery-style art hanging and lighting system, for an exhibit and reception open to the public from 4:00-8:00pm. Acoustic music is played in the living-room-style room at the front of the building from 5:00-7:00pm. Poetry readings can be heard from 7:30-8:00pm. “It’s not unusual for 100 people to come through our doors for Frederick Artist Night and we’ve seen as many as 200”, says Julia Ferguson who organizes the event.
In exchange for the use of the Community Room on First Saturday, the artist leaves their work the rest of the month. The exhibit is not juried. Cowork Frederick requires only that the artist be local and the work office/family friendly. The rotation of art helps promote an atmosphere of creativity for members of Cowork Frederick. “It’s a win for everyone”, says Julia. “The artist gets a chance to show his or her work, the public gets to see the great creativity of our local artist community, and those working or meeting at Cowork Frederick are surrounded by great art. Adding music to our events has really made a difference. Music draws people in – it’s such a magical art form. And, I’ve always had a love for poetry.”
Past artists have included Sara Knox, Don Frame, Sumner Crenshaw, Tom Semmes, and Bill Adkins. Past musicians have included Abigail Palmer and Pretty Gritty. Frederick Artist Night (FAN) for March’s First Saturday will feature art from twin sisters Laura and Elizabeth Pengelly and the music of Reid Schoenfelder. April’s FAN will feature Aynex Mercado’s Quilt Art, the music of Todd Walker, and poetry from Vince Coates. Information on future events can be found on the Cowork Frederick Event Calendar.
Cowork Frederick is continuously seeking local artists, singer-songwriters and poets for FAN. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Are you a FAN of local creativity? Stop by Cowork Frederick at 122 E Patrick St any First Saturday for Frederick Artist Night. Cowork Frederick hosts a local artist, musician, and poet during Downtown Frederick’s First Saturday celebration each month. Admission to the family-friendly event is free.