From Scenic Hudson’s News Archive: “Generating Downtown Revitalization via the Arts”
By Mark Wildonger, AICP
Posted: December 7, 2012
The gallery that just opened in your town not only is a good place to purchase local artists’ work—it also indicates your community has great potential for economic growth. Take the City of Beacon, one of several emerging arts centers in the Hudson Valley (others include Peekskill, Poughkeepsie and Hudson). Dia:Beacon, the world-class modern art museum, contributes over $12 million to the regional economy and is responsible for an estimated 168 local jobs. Its success over the last decade has spurred the creation of numerous arts establishments, from new galleries to the Beacon Theatre.
John Gilvey, a partner in Hudson Beach Glass, a Beacon mainstay since the 1980s, had this to say about the arts as an economic engine: “The return on dollars spent on the arts is greater than any other investment a community can make. Beacon is a perfect example of how the arts can revitalize a city, and Dia:Beacon has really been the key player in this. Hudson Beach Glass would never have moved to Main Street if Dia had not chosen to move to Beacon. Dia brought Beacon to the attention of the arts community and they saw the beauty and potential of our city.
“What the suburbanites in the surrounding area saw as blight, creative people from Brooklyn, Manhattan and other parts of urban America saw as opportunity,” Gilvey continued. “Beacon has the possibility of becoming a model of the new urban environment, with art and culture at its center.”
Like Beacon, communities across America are realizing that a robust arts community fosters a strong sense of place critical for attracting new residents and visitors. This tie between the arts and downtown revitalization is gaining traction in leading arts organizations as well. For example, the National Endowment for the Arts recently initiated the Our Town program. It funds projects that “through creative placemaking strategies seek to revitalize small and large communities with the arts at the center.”
It helps to have strong local support—from artists and residents. The grassroots Beacon Arts Community Association (BeaconArts) has taken the lead in promoting and growing the city’s arts renaissance as a major part of Beacon’s downtown renewal. One of its goals is making the city as pedestrian-friendly as possible. To implement this vision, BeaconArts applied for and received a Hudson River Valley Greenway grant to develop a section of the Beacon Loop Trail along Main Street. The idea is to create a stronger, safer connection to arts venues for visitors arriving via bicycle or walking from the train station. The project includes installing bicycle sharrows, signs and bike posts; implementing a bicycle-education program; and developing a trail logo designed by a local artist. The project marks a significant step in completing the Beacon Loop Trail, which will link the train station, Main Street, Fishkill Creek and the Klara Sauer Trail.
BeaconArts President Linda Hubbard strongly believes the arts contribute to community revitalization. “When Dia:Beacon opened in 2003, they put Beacon on the international art map. This not only brought thousands of visitors annually to Main Street, but encouraged galleries, restaurants and shops to open. Landlords invested in their storefronts. Artists moved to Beacon and created a sense of community. They worked together to create Beacon Second Saturday, musical events such as Beacon Riverfest, Open Studio Tours and more. The Beacon Loop Trail is a wonderful continuation of this energy, helping to improve Beacon as an arts destination.”