Life-size sculptures bring feet to the street
The Simsbury Chamber of Commerce is investing in a series of 23 bronze statues to be placed around town next year, as part of a push to increase tourism and foot-traffic for the small western Connecticut town during the spring and summer months.
The statues, sculpted by renowned artist Seward Johnson, depict life-like human figures performing everyday activities, like a girl eating an ice cream cone and a man reading a newspaper on a park bench.
“Our biggest reason for doing this is to bring more visitors into town, to not only see these statues, but to frequent the businesses as well,” explained Lisa Gray, executive director of the Simsbury Chamber. “We envision having these statues placed around town and close to our local businesses, so people who are walking and biking can stop in later for a dinner or a beer.”
To pay for the walkable art display, the chamber held a kickoff party and fundraiser in late November at Simsbury Bank, its largest sponsor and the first business to contribute to the drive. The chamber is offering sponsorship levels ranging from $150 to $10,000.
“We’re reaching out to our local businesses to help them see that this will bring more people into town, which equals more business for them,” said Gray. “We’re also reaching out to residents, because there are a lot of people who are interested in art or getting outside during the spring and summer months.”
The idea was inspired by the chamber’s previous executive director, Ferg Jansen, who saw some of Johnson’s works on display while visiting family in Indiana. The reaction from stakeholders and the community has been largely positive so far, said Gray.
“Everybody loves the first piece that we call our teaser piece,” she said. “It’s called ‘Special Delivery,’ and it’s a statue of a mailman we have positioned out in front of a local grocery store. We’ve gotten loads of great emails and comments about it, and it’s been shared all over social media.”
The selection of sculptures will include Johnson’s renditions of famous American works, like “V-J Day in Times Square,” the iconic photograph that captured a sailor kissing a nurse at the end of World War Two, as well as “American Gothic,” the classic painting of a solemn-faced, colonial-era couple.
All told, the statues will be on temporary display for four months, from May–September 2018.
“Our community is about 10 miles outside of Hartford, and we have some local attractions, but not a ton that will bring people from other parts of the state,” explained Gray. “This will help us sustain our businesses through the slow summertime and get more feet on the street visiting our shops and restaurants.”
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Art paves the way for economic prosperity
New research reminds us that supporting the arts and culture sector accelerates local economic development and creates vibrant communities.
Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that the arts add value to the economy and local businesses, according to an Americans for the Arts poll. Another survey by the Conference Board and Americans for the Arts reports that 67 percent of businesses support the arts because of their economic impact.
People and businesses agree: creating a strong and vibrant arts community isn’t just nice, it makes economic sense. Simply put, arts and cultural organizations are businesses that invest in communities and grow economies.
A recent report published by Americans for the Arts explains the importance of arts and culture to commerce. For the report, titled Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Report (AEP5), researchers collected and analyzed data from nearly 15,000 organizations and more than 212,000 patrons to measure industry spending.
Typical attendees to an arts-focused event spend more than $31 each, not including admission costs. Collectively, consumption by those audiences sends more than $100 billion each year to local businesses in the United States. The economic impact is significant: supporting the arts means supporting 4.6 million jobs and generating $27.5 billion in government revenue, while also benefiting many business segments within a community.
Many arts supporters travel far and wide to attend performances, events and exhibits. In fact, 34 percent of said attendees live outside the county in which the event takes place. And 69 percent of these non-local attendees said their primary purpose for visiting a community was specifically to attend this arts/cultural event. When asked what they would be doing if the event being attended wasn’t taking place, 41 percent of local arts supporters said they would have traveled to another community for a similar type of event.
Perhaps what’s more astounding is that non-local attendees spend twice as much — $47.57 compared to $23.44 — as attendees from the local community. In short, that means opportunities are endless for local businesses to market a wider variety of goods and services to visiting arts supporters. When these events take place, restaurants see more customers, hotels have more visitors and retail stores have more foot traffic.
While typical non-local attendees spend almost $50 per event (not including admission costs) on average, visitors who book hotel rooms or reserve other accommodations for lodging spend more than $160 each, on average.
While supporting arts and culture, audiences also support local eateries of every variety, from fine dining restaurants to food trucks. About 54 cents of every dollar spent goes to culinary experiences.
And like hotels and restaurants, retailers benefit, too. From the purchase of gifts to souvenirs, one-fifth of every dollar spent by arts supporters goes to the local retail sector.
Transportation-related expenses account for $.10 of every dollar spent by arts supporters. This includes spending on mass transit, like subways, as well as ground transportation, such as taxis, buses and parking.
It’s easy to see how nearly every segment of a local economy benefits from a vibrant arts and culture scene. Art paves the way for economic prosperity. Additionally, art contributes to enhanced quality of life and creates unique cultural experiences.
By supporting arts and culture, chambers of commerce support restaurants, retailers, hotels and transit in the communities they serve. And, supporting arts means creating a more vibrant place for people in the community.
For more local and national data, check out the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Report (AEP5), published by Americans for the Arts. Learn how can chambers of commerce can support the arts and culture sector at www.pARTnershipMovement.org.
Randy Cohen is vice president of research and policy and Emily Peck is vice president of private sector initiatives for Americans for the Arts.