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Arts and Economic Development

A vibrant arts scene can be a reliable and durable driver of local economic growth and resilience. Many city leaders have developed strategies to leverage the arts for economic development, focusing on creative placemaking while linking culture and urban planning as a way to activate city assets and neighborhoods.


Careful nurturing of the arts can bring multiple benefits. Cities with thriving arts scenes attract visitors and new residents alike. They can be a significant draw for employers who want to attract and retain talent and for companies that are focused on the arts sector. The colocation of artistic facilities, organizations, and firms can have a significant economic multiplier effect and drive significant job creation. Arts districts often support thriving associated businesses – bars, restaurants, and clubs. For many cities, the arts and cultural institutions form a foundational part of their identity.


Through careful planning, cities can increase the economic impact of their arts communities.

Creating Change through Arts, Culture, and Equitable Development - Executive Summary, Kalima Rose, Milly Hawk Daniel, and Jeremy Liu, PolicyLink, March 14th, 2017. Read more.

Development Without Displacement, The Scenic Route, Transportation for America, August 10th, 2016. Read more.

Funding Sources for Public Art, Project for Public Spaces, August 10th, 2016. Read more.

Creative Placemaking? What Is It That You Do?, ArtPlace, July 23rd, 2016. Read more.

On Downtown Berkeley Street, the Poetry is Underfoot, Lou Fancher, Berkeleyside, July 13th, 2015. Read more.

New Engines of Growth: 5 Roles for Arts, Culture & Design, National Governors Association, May 1st, 2012. Read more.

The Creative Community: How Three Communities Used Art to Build a Future, Rebecca Sanborn Stone, Engaging Cities, February 27th, 2012. Read more.

Economic Vitality: How the Arts and Culture Sector Catalyzes Economic Vitality, American Planning Association, January 1st, 2011. Read more.

Arts and Economic Prosperity IV: National Highlights, Americans for the Arts. Read more.

The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization, University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Marion Blackwell Architect for the City of Little Rock, AR. Read more.

Little Rock, AR leveraged federal EPA grants, philanthropy, and private investment to revitalize Main Street as the Creative Corridor.


The Spaceworks program in Tacoma, WA activates empty storefronts by making them available to artists and entrepreneurs.


Berkeley, CA’s arts district is home to many performing and visual arts spaces, including The Berkeley Rep and the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.


The Oakland Art Murmur is a monthly art walk and street party featuring street performances, receptions, one-night art installations, and food vending.


North Adams, MA turned 26 former factory buildings into MASS MoCA, one of the largest museums of contemporary art anywhere.


AS220 in Providence, RI is an artist-run organization that provides artists with living space, gallery space, a performance stage, visual art studios, and a bar and restaurant, and has invested $25 million in downtown Providence.


Visit ArtPlace for more great examples happening in cities across the country.


Ceri Jenkins

For more ideas on using arts as a form of economic development in your city, view presentations from the Summer 2016 Meeting's 'Arts as Economic Development' panel here.