At the recent Arts & Culture Day, Leadership Program Class of 2015 learned about the impact of the arts on Palm Beach County’s economy, community and businesses. And there’s a lot of impact.
Class member Matt Chait described the day and why we all need to support our local art and culture institutions:
We began the day at the Cultural Counsel of Palm Beach County. CEO Rena Blades told us that the arts have a $750 million economic impact on Palm Beach County and that the county has the highest per capita art expenditure in the state. When asked what the county could do better, Rena said that we need a better connection between the arts and the public school system.
That was a perfect segue to our next stop – the Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Patricia Broxson, Executive Director of the school’s foundation, gave us a tour of the campus. We saw some of the school’s many departments – theater, music and communications. At the conclusion of the tour, we listened to a panel discussion with Raphael Clemente (Executive Director, West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority), Sue Ellen Beryl (Managing Director, Palm Beach Dramaworks) and Joan Oliva (Executive Director, Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency). The panelists highlighted the fact that arts and cultural institutions are generally more successful in vitalized or revitalized downtown areas. The synergy of the arts and other business (such as stores and restaurants) results in greater foot traffic and more patronization. The panelists emphasized how important it is for the county’s residents to visit their cultural institutions to keep them successful.
The class spent the afternoon at three of the area’s best known cultural institutions: the Norton Museum of Art, the Ann W. Norton Sculpture Gardens and the Armory Arts Center. At all three venues, we saw examples of the wide variety of art on display in the county, including painting, photography and sculpture. The Armory offers several affordable classes for artists of all levels of ability and, in that regard, is contributing to the growth of the arts community in the county.
Funding for the arts was the most important issue discussed during the day, followed by the need to get participation of the community in the arts. While funding comes from the state, the most successful cultural institutions in the county rely on endowments, grants and private donations. The leadership community can lead by example in addressing these issues. For example, as Raphael Clemente noted, even stopping by one of the many outdoor murals in downtown West Palm Beach is patronization of the arts.
In addition to the arts and culture, the class agreed that the other highlights were the breakfast pastries at the Cultural Counsel (actually that was a highlight primarily for one unnamed class member), the wine at the Armory, and the fact that no one asked a question about All Aboard Florida at any point during the day.