According to a study recently conducted by Arts Alive!, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that works to enhance quality of life by advancing arts and culture in the Monadnock region, the collective impact of arts and culture on the region is $1.9 million in state and local government revenue, $18.6 million generated from event ticket sales, hotel and restaurant spending, and retail purchases, and 659 jobs created. In fact, 89% of audience members from outside this region say that arts and culture evens brought them to our community. This money goes to supporting jobs, fueling businesses, funding local and state government, and more.
Feeling passionate about the impact of arts and culture in the community, Taryn Fisher, Assistant Professor and MBA in Sustainability Program Director at Antioch University New England, joined the Keene Arts & Culture Working Group (KACWG), a group of arts enthusiasts in the Keene and greater Monadnock region, working to increase the profile of arts and culture, in the area. Fisher has been facilitating meetings of KACWG for several months in order to better understand and assess the needs of artists, musicians, and creative economy workers, and the obstacles they face in living and working here. The goal is to find ways to simplify and make things more user-friendly for them, thereby boosting both economic vitality and downtown vibrancy.
In August Fisher and members of KACWG explored the arts and culture scene in North Adams, MA, with the goal of learning about both the “whats” and the “hows” that create and support the vibrancy of that community. They visited a live/work space for artists, shared business spaces, maker spaces, and galleries. They learned about funding options and that collective marketing among various artists and arts organizations is a key success factor. Community engagement via participatory arts programs and events is big in North Adams as well. After the trip Fisher said, “We have an abundance of arts and culture assets in our region such as The Colonial Theatre, the Keene Music Festival, the Monadnock International Film Festival, and so much more. At the same time, we have gaps to fill which could include more public art installations, sculpture walks, galleries, and smaller-scale performance venues.”
Events in the area are being held that focus on increasing arts and culture in our region. In September Arts Alive! hosted the event Arts & Community Growth: A Reception & Idea Jam with Randy Cohen, VP of Policy & Research at Americans for the Arts, at the The Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship in Keene. As part of the event, Fisher facilitated an Idea Jam and breakout conversations where participants had 60 seconds to pitch an idea and answer the question, “What innovative partnerships can be established to increase the role Arts & Culture play in enhancing and communicating quality of life in our region?” Ideas ranged from increasing public art, building Keene as the solar capitol of NH, encouraging more walking, establishing Downtown Keene as a conference center, and more sidewalk and pedestrian space on Main Street.
Following up on that gathering, in November, the Hannah Grimes Center’s annual CONNECT event “Main Street 2.0” will highlight the importance of the arts and culture to a community’s economic well-being. As part of the event, Machina Arts, an arts and design-inspired start-up, will work with several groups to create displays downtown highlighting ideas generated at the Idea Jam. Fisher will collaborate with photographer Dana Read to create an exhibit called “2.0 Gallery” which will showcase the benefits of a downtown art gallery and a live/work/exhibit/perform space.
Next steps for the KACWG are to collaborate with various agencies and groups including, the City of Keene’s Planning Department during the next phase of its Land Use Code Update Project to streamline arts and culture-related regulations and ordinances; Monadnock Buy Local to develop a Complete Economy Resolution; and the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation to identify and pursue specific parcels or properties that present exceptional potential for complementary, local economy start-up ventures. Fisher said, “I love working with young entrepreneurs – it’s refreshing! The concept of community well-being and resilience must be envisioned by and for Gen Y, Gen Z, and Gen beyond. We must evolve from car-centric, single-use, export-from-afar thinking toward a shared, circular economy mindset. We must build now what future generations want and need.”