Using a Theatre District for Arts-Driving Economic Development

On a trip last week to Winston-Salem, Sec. Susan Kluttz joined N.C. Arts Council Director Wayne Martin to see first-hand how the arts are being used revitalize the local economy. She was in town to see how a small investment through the N.C. Arts Council's SmART Initiative pilot project is serving as a catalyst for an ambitious expansion of the Winston-Salem Theatre District and the unveiling of an arts-driven economic plan for the city's downtown.

Specifically, the secretary attended the release of the SmART Initiative Theatre District Study by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. The study is trying to boost the city's economy, enrich the lives of residents, bring visitors downtown and reinforce the image of Winston-Salem as the "City of Arts and Innovation" by investing in five projects that would create a Downtown Theatre District campus around an iconic public park.

One of the most exciting things about the project is the state –local and public-private partnerships it has spawned. The $30,000 investment from the state was a planning grant that the local folks used for economic impact research.

"The SmART Initiative accomplished what we envisioned. It brought together almost one hundred community leaders and interested citizens who studied, evaluated and dreamed about a vibrant arts destination - a place where people want to live and work," Sec. Kluttz said. "Our investment has been more than matched by the private sector partners. Now, a broad coalition of supporters is advocating building on an already vibrant downtown."

The statewide SmART Initiative was launched last year as an arts-driven economic development program. Winston-Salem was one of five cities selected to be part of the pilot projects. You can check out more on the SmART program and other economic development programs on the N.C. Arts Council here.

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