About six years ago, we worked with the Shepstone Management Company on a downtown development strategy for Oil City, PA. One element of the strategy was to institute an artist recruitment to bring artists to live and work in the city. A recent article in the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce’s Catalyst magazine by Joann Wheeler, the ARTS Oil City program director provides an overview of the program’s performance to date:
ARTS Oil City, the city’s arts revitalization and artist relocation program continues to show a strong return on investment. Now in its fifth year, the program is one piece of the overall downtown development strategy recommended by the Shepstone-Fairweather study in 2005 and implemented in July 2006 as a component of a plan to repopulate the city and revitalize its downtown. It is showing steady progress on both fronts. The program is administered by 0. 5 FTE Joann Wheeler from the ARTS Oil City office in the National Transit Building. It operates under the auspices of the Oil City Arts and Cultural Commission (formerly Oil City Arts Council). Fiscal and clerical support is provided by the Oil City Department of Community Development.
By the end of 2011, the city’s approximately $135,000 investment in the program over a five-year period had resulted in well over $1 million in property purchases and rentals in Oil City. Arts-related programs and businesses now fill 22,200 square feet in the National Transit Building, and 8,000 square feet in two downtown commercial buildings.
As Ms. Wheeler points out, arts alone cannot turn an economy around, but it can be an important contributor to a revitalization effort. You can read more here.