By Carole Bernard
Gateway Community Development Corporation
The impact arts activities and the cultural community have on a local economy has proven to be substantial in transforming areas across the country. Elected officials, urban planners and other decision makers are integrating the arts with traditional economic development strategies, encouraging growth of creative industries and supporting Arts and Entertainment Districts (A&E Districts). Top findings from the December 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) stated Arts and Cultural Production “accounted for nearly 3.2 percent, or $504 billion, of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product in 2011.” The report demonstrates how the arts serve as an integral and measurable component of the U.S. economy today, and in the future.
What does that mean for the State of Maryland? It means the timing is right for legislators to fund the arts and A&E Districts to create a competitive edge for our counties and local economies. We’re fortunate to have many elected officials who understand the national research and quantitative analysis that is driving new and exciting conversations about economic development through the arts. They understand the viability of promoting the creative economy. Governor Martin O’Malley has been a staunch arts advocate. As mayor, he was a leader in positioning the arts as a cultural and economic asset for Baltimore. He also received the Americans for the Arts top national honor, last year, as Maryland’s pro-arts governor. Delegate Melony Griffith, Maryland State Arts Council legislative liaison, also has championed funding and proactive policies for the arts throughout her years of service.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III also gets it. Under his administration, the Redevelopment Authority has invested millions of dollars over the past year and half into the Gateway A&E District, which includes Mount Rainer, Brentwood, North Brentwood and Hyattsville. With two mixed-use development projects in Brentwood that include 250 plus residential units, commercial and arts-related spaces, and its recent acquisition of property in Mount Rainier, the landscape of these communities will dramatically change over the next five years. With a pro-business climate, affordable real estate, top-notch higher learning institutions, enterprising immigrant populations, strong heritage programs, and a rich diversity of creative resources – areas like the Gateway A&E District are ready to take advantage of the economic rebound and attract more investment in Prince George’s County.
The NEA and ArtPlace America combined recently provided almost $300,000 in funding to the Gateway A&E District for creative placemaking. The Art Lives Here initiative brings together seven community partners from the area to support artists and businesses through audience development, strategic branding and programming in the District’s four towns this year. Partners include ArtWorks Now, Gateway CDC, Hyattsville CDC, Red Dirt Studio, Joe’s Movement Emporium, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council (PGAHC) and Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center.
What can the County do to leverage this national support?
- Fund and develop a County cultural plan to engage stakeholders in a series of dialogues resulting in a renewed strategy for arts-integrated sustainable growth. Led by PGAHC, this effort would build on the success of the Gateway A&E District to create a ripple effect in County communities.
- Increase PGAHC’s funding to elevate access to matching grants for artists, arts organizations, arts educators and A&E Districts.
- Provide dedicated funding to Gateway CDC and charge it to update the 10-year old Gateway Arts District Sector Plan to create a renewed strategy for supporting a growing artist community through services and arts-related activities, fostering new development and promoting business retention and growth with technical assistance programs.
- Ensure all four towns in the Gateway A&E District have the Sustainable Communities Designation to open new funding opportunities for Smart Growth initiatives.
“Concentrations of cultural enterprises and creative workers in a geographic area provide a competitive edge by clustering innovation, enhancing economic activity, contributing to a 21st Century workforce, and attracting new businesses, residents and visitors,” says Rhonda Dallas, PGAHC Executive Director. A&E Districts around the state are advancing community revitalization and seeing results. The State of Maryland was among the first states in the country to sponsor A&E Districts as a way to stimulate the economy and improve quality of life.
On February 12th, arts advocates from the state will gather in Annapolis for Maryland Arts Day, sponsored by Maryland Citizens for the Arts. The day is really important because the time is really now! We respectfully ask our state legislators to prioritize the arts. Provide much needed funding to the A&E Districts so those of us on the ground, can lead in the effort to build strong, sustainable, diverse and vibrant communities. We should not and cannot afford to wait. Let’s seize this moment together.