Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux and a group of experts discussed diversifying economies through supporting the arts at the closing panel of the Music Cities Convention on Friday.
Held at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, the panel focused on how government incentives can support the arts and foster economic growth during a discussion in conjunction with the Festival Acadiens et Creoles last week in Lafayette.
"It dawned on me that where else in America can you be in one building (ACA), have two different venues and have all these Grammy winners and Grammy nominees so I realized I needed to really focus on the diversification of our economy into something that already exists... our local artists," Robideaux said.
Robideaux said this led to the Cultural Recreation Entertainment Arts and Tourism Economy, or CREATE, initiative that saw last November's re-dedication of .25 mills to generate $500,000 a year for strategic investments in the community's arts and culture.
Panel members Sherri McConnell, former Creative Public Policy Adviser for the state of Louisiana, Abby Kurin, director of the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts and Culture and Yngvil Van Guttu, executive director of the Northern Culture Exchange and the Spenard JazzFest in Alaska spoke about the struggles and successes they have had in promoting culture and remarked on the way Lafayette and Louisiana embraces its culture and arts.
Both Kurin and Van Guttu talked about the difficulties in getting public policy makers to understand how much work goes into making art like music and movies. McConnell, meanwhile, provided insight on the work she did to help shape the state's incentives for creating art in Louisiana.
"Remember that (policy makers) are just people and they don't know what you do unless you tell them and show them," McConnell said. "I think, too, that being able to quantify the value of the arts in data is valuable."
Robideaux said once he understood the value the arts has for not only generating dollars through shows and exhibits, but also by making cities attractive for tourism and new businesses, investing in the arts was an easy decision for him.
"The CREATE initiative fosters the social economy and allows millennials to see that Lafayette is a place they want to live because the social economy is a piece of its fabric... so businesses that see that their workers want to live in a place like Lafayette will want to move here," Robideaux said.
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