07/15/12 — Study finds art is $2.8 million industry in Wayne County

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Study finds art is $2.8 million industry in Wayne County

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 15, 2012 1:50 AM

At the Arts Council of Wayne County's Arts and Economic Prosperity Study announcement Wednesday, there were signs of Goldsboro's embrace of the arts and culture all around -- and that was just the Arts Council's new building.

Wayne Martin, the director of the North Carolina Arts Council, was on hand at the nonprofit's new home at the corner of John and Walnut streets for the first public event held in what will become the gallery and Art Market, but the news he shared with those gathered was even more of a boon to the center.

City leaders spoke of the partnership between the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. and the Arts Council in an effort to bring them downtown amid discussions of the economic impact the arts have had on Wayne County.

The report, performed by Americans for the Arts, revealed that in 2010 the arts were a $2.8 million industry in Wayne County, as visitors to galleries, theaters and other cultural events led to an average of $13.82 spent per person -- proof, Martin said, that the arts generate economic development even in smaller cities.

"You don't have to be in Charlotte for the arts to have an impact," he said.

But he spoke, also, of the partnerships the Arts Council had formed to ensure the arts had a fertile area to grow, comparing the arts, combined with economic development, to a match and gasoline.

He said it spoke for the region as Wilson and Kinston are also making investments into the arts.

"The way that cities are branding their art is branding the region," he said, saying Eastern North Carolina is emerging as an area where arts are helping to grow cities and economies.

He also commended Wayne County leaders for wanting customized results, as smaller cities and areas typically don't participate.

But Sarah Merritt, the Arts Council of Wayne County director, teamed with more than a dozen arts and culture organizations in the county ranging from the Paramount Theatre to the Wayne County Museum for the study, which involved nearly 1,000 completed surveys in 2010.

The numbers released at the event reinforced Mrs. Merritt's Arts Mean Business campaign and she said she was very pleased with the results, especially as they translated into how valuable what she and others in the arts do for the community.

"It shows we're not just a frill or a luxury," she said. "We enhance the quality of life for residents in this area and are also a big part of economic development and recovery."

The Arts Council will debut its new gallery Thursday at 5 p.m. with its first exposition, Carolina Country, which will feature paintings that celebrate the landscape of Eastern North Carolina. The exhibit will run through Aug. 23.