Envision Athens, a community-wide planning and action process for the economic and community development of Athens-Clarke County, recently released its six-month progress report, revealing movement in the number one priority action across its 14 different domains.The first action to be completed from the Action Agenda is under the Arts and Culture domain: “Measure economic impacts of arts, culture, and heritage tourism.” CREATE Athens, a group of arts and culture stakeholders in Athens, has been meeting regularly, facilitated by Envision Athens project manager Erin Barger, and in February it completed an economic impact report for Athens-Clarke County arts and culture.

To ensure this report would be locally informed, cost effective, and would remain dynamic and action oriented, the stakeholders worked themselves to compile and synthesize existing data from local, regional and national reports that focus on civic engagement, education and economic impact with regard to arts and culture. Arts and culture in this case refers to visual, literary and performing arts, which include music, theater, film, heritage resources, historic preservation and other cultural initiatives.

In 2015, Americans for the Arts and Economic Prosperity measured the economic impact of arts and culture in Athens-Clarke County at $85.5 million annually. The same year, Georgia Council for the Arts reported that more than 15 percent of the population in Athens-Clarke County is employed in arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services, all of which are affected to varying degrees by arts and culture and the visitors that they bring. Elizabeth Mount, a student in UGA’s Music Business Program, helped shape the data into a clear, brief report that both quantifies the impact of arts and culture in Athens and makes recommendations for how to increase that impact.

The report’s recommendations are:

  • Include specific space for artists in affordable housing initiatives and funding mechanisms.
  • Support competitive wages and prices for artists, arts teachers and arts-related services.
  • Encourage professional development for artists by providing classes and services that help them develop artistic pursuits into careers instead of simply hobbies.
  • Explore opportunities for additional funding mechanisms for arts and culture initiatives, including encouraging:
    • optional surcharge or donation opportunities at art-related events or at arts locations to help fund arts initiatives
    • private businesses to hire local artists or purchase local art, as examples, for enhancing their spaces by dedicating 1 percent of their capital expenditures to art, similar to SPLOST’s 1 percent construction designation for public art (a recommendation echoed in the Public Art Master Plan)
    • arts endowment opportunities through the Athens Community Foundation or other foundations (e.g., The Classic Center Cultural Foundation)
    • applications for grants by a wide range of artists and arts organizations
  • Prioritize arts education by creating additional educational arts opportunities for youth, with a particular focus on after-school and out-of-school opportunities.
  • Continue to fund and provide paid support for the Public Art Master Plan components accepted by the Mayor and Commission.
  • Consider recommendations from the Music Tourism Report by the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Product Development Team for funding and implementation.
  • Recognize the need for equity in arts opportunities and take steps to encourage better representation in arts initiatives.

To view the full report, visit http://envisionathens.com/arts-and-culture-report/

The team that compiled the report included the following members: David Barbe, Erin Barger, Mux Blank, Hillary Brown, Donna Brumby, Taylor Chicoine, Paul Cramer, Julie Darnell, Didi Dunphy, Broderick Flanigan, Nena Gilreath, Deborah Gonzalez, Jill Helme, Mary Charles Howard, Chuck Jones, Amy Kissane, Michael Lachowski, Ryan Lewis, Jeff Montgomery, Elizabeth Mount, James Preston, Aida Quiñones, Andrew Salinas, Rick Schott, Tai Sherman, Dan Smith, Solomon Smothers, Marie Uhler and Marilyn Wolf-Ragatz.

Now that its first priority action has been completed, CREATE Athens will move into addressing barriers to inclusion in the realm of arts and culture, to build equity and open access for all who want to create and experience this unique and definitive feature of life in Athens. To join CREATE Athens and find its public meetings and other public meetings of Envision Athens, go to www.envisionathens.com.


Erin Barger
Envision Athens Project Manager