The Public Humanist

Revitalizing Cities: The Synergy of the Arts and Businesses

Those of us in the arts community clearly understand the important role that culture plays in the economic viability of a community. When there is a strong and stable arts and cultural community, people will come to take part in the programming whether it be theater, film, visual art, music or dance, and in turn look for places to eat, shop and relax before or after a cultural event. This correlation adds to theincreased viability of a community and increases traffic in an otherwisedepressed area.

We have seen this happen in the South End of Boston, inthe Washington Street Area, now coined SOWA, South of Washington, beautiful newcondos, art galleries that stay open late, and a number of new restaurantscatering to those who are attracted to the new “Arts” district.

There are certain areas of Boston that are having aresurgence and the Roxbury/Dudley Square Area is one of them. With a new ArtsCenter at Hibernian Hall and renovated artist space in the square as well asnew businesses and more being built, the square is on the cusp of a majorrevitalization.

Collaborations with businesses like the Haley House Cafand The Color of Film Collaborative’s Dinner & A Movie, ACT Roxbury’sArtist Open Studios, which works with local artists and businesses to displaytheir art and support their program, and the Roxbury Film Festival that callsupon area businesses and sponsors to attract filmmakers from around the worldto the Roxbury Area to screen films, increase the cultural and economicviability of a community. Roxbury has always been rich in culture and history.Movie theaters, jazz clubs and theatres, some dating back to the 1800’s,provided Roxbury with a wealth of culture. Over the decades the neighborhood haschanged; urban renewal in the 60s and 70s destroyed a lot of the life, butslowly and surely it is coming back.

The New England Council report:“The Creative Economy Initiative: The Role of the Arts and Culture in NewEngland’s Economic Competitiveness” (June 2000) stated that “as the economicenvironment changes, so too must our understanding of the role of the arts andculture in supporting it. With the remarkable convergence of creativity andtechnology taking place today, there are more links between the nonprofit andcommercial sectors than ever before.This calls for new approaches and policies that will harness theentrepreneurial energy in the arts industry, and enhance the activity we seetoday. New England’s creativity is a critical asset when it comes toemployment, community empowerment, enhanced quality of life and education – wehave the opportunity, and the tools, to maximize it.”

With the changes happening in the Roxbury area, especially Dudley Square’s renovations of the Hotel Washington, restaurants, Hibernian Hall, and new office buildings and the GroveHall Mecca with new restaurants and banking institutions and Egelston Square with the new BNN building and new businesses, the economic impact of all these new additions adds value to a once depressed neighborhood and allows for a kind of synergy between nonprofit organizations and businesses to create an environment for the resurgence of cultural arts programming that changes the face of a neighborhood and gives a community a strong sense of pride.

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