Press and Standard: Moving a community forward

Local, state and national leaders talked about injecting arts into community development in Walterboro, Nov. 13, 2015.
Local, state and national leaders talked about injecting arts into community development in Walterboro, Nov. 13, 2015.

Excerpted from The (Walterboro) Press and Standard  |  Read the full story here

DEC. 4, 2015  |  All the ink goes to tax breaks and incentives when a community is successful in attracting a new employer, but the recruiting of an economic development prospect involves everything, including arts and culture.

Often potential economic development factors like the arts and culture are overlooked.

Susan DuPlessis of the South Carolina Arts Commission, said, “It is all so knitted together that sometimes it is difficult to tease out all these different pieces.”  Culture and the arts, she explained, is a vital part of a community’s quality of life “that helps make a place that people want to be.”

The arts and culture, she explained, “is fundamental to quality of life and to economic development, comprehensive community development that looks at all aspects from public safety to health care to workforce development to education. They are all part of what it means to be in a community.” …

The South Carolina Arts Commission partnered with the museum to host the presentation which focused on the use of the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market as one of the case studies in a national report on “Museums, Libraries and Comprehensive Initiatives: A First Look at Emerging Experiences,” issued by the Institute of Museum and Library Service and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

The Colleton Museum and Farmers Market was the only rural initiative highlighted in the report. Walterboro was the lone rural community the report’s sponsors chose to host a conversation on the report’s findings. …

Colleton County Economic Director Heyward Horton heartily seconds DuPlessis’s assessment of the role of the arts and culture in the search for new employment opportunities through economic development.

“When you are recruiting a prospect, you need to have some energy going on within your community,” Horton said. “Prospects typically don’t choose to locate in communities that don’t have a lot going on.”

When trying to sell business officials on Colleton County, he said, “The fact that we can point to the award-winning museum, combined with a farmers market and a commercial kitchen incubator, shows that vibrancy.” …

Andy Brack, a journalist and head of The Center for a Better South, helped put together the application that led President Barack Obama to give six South Carolina counties the Promise Zone designation.

“The Arts Commission recognizes that arts and culture span over the entire discussion, all parts of it,” Brack said. “If we engage people in the creative process, we can create better places to live and that, in turn, will keep people at home and attract more people to move in.”

Brack, taking a break from the Nov. 13 conference, said, “What is exciting about this conference is that it is bringing people together from inside the Promise Zone and outside the Promise Zone to talk about ways to integrate the arts into economic development, into reducing poverty, into improving education and into bringing communities together.”

He said the story of Colleton County’s success is being heard by other governmental officials within the Promise Zone.

“This is just building capacity,” Brack said. “Good things happen when people start talking to each other.”

NOTE:  The (Walterboro) Press and Standard offered this story by George Salsberry on Dec. 4 on a meeting about how arts and culture could move communities forward.  We announced the meeting here.

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