CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Impact of the arts to our tourism sector

by Janet Jarrell \ Quinte Arts Council

Today, the Regional Tourism Organization (RTO9) meets by way of a virtual summit with speakers from across a diverse platform looking at the recovery plans for the arts, tourism, culture and sport. COVID-19 has changed the strategies that were in place, forcing all levels of government to rethink recovery plans and actions to support these industries.

Wisely, most strategic plans are moving toward measures to stimulate domestic demands for the short term – the staycation is alive and well. For the short term, a strong domestic tourism plan is required engaging us in local tourism in the year ahead while planning for the long run.

Tourism leaders and governments need to work in collaboration with local arts councils, art organizations and art groups in order to develop and deliver unique, creative experiences and driven authentic products. A coordinated approach to marketing arts and culture for tourism and making these experiences accessible to all demographics is a move forward toward recovery.

Artists are naturally gifted at creative thinking and problem solving. They know how to turn adversity into advantage and challenges into prospect. They use critical thinking, they create new music, are not afraid of new art practices and the reuse of new types of spaces. Art is the primary driver of regional and urban regeneration and creatively increases what is unique about a community.

Art, heritage and culture play an important role in defining who we are as a community and contributes to a healthy local economy and lifestyle for those who live and work in the area. This pandemic has had devastating effects on local arts and culture, cancelling live shows, concerts, and theatre to name a few. As we look to recovery, officials have been forced to ask themselves ‘How can we attract and retain viable businesses, talented people and unique experiences to the area?’

A key component to answer such a question is arts and culture. It is important to understand the crucial role the arts play in the beautification and attractiveness of a destination such as the Quinte area. The key is to treat the arts as an essential part of the city’s identity.

“We cannot have good lives if our community is a desert of artistic, cultural and heritage activities,” stated Belleville Mayor Mitch Panciuk back in May 2019.

Build the economy at the local level – enhance surrounding business, provide job opportunities, provide a way for people to participate in the arts, explore and engage in activities related to art festivals, concerts, and wine and cuisine events and to explore museums. The Belleville Downtown BIA is a great example of this; Downtown at Dusk was a smash hit, the Al Fresco celebration this summer, together with Prismatica, saw more positive, active life in downtown Belleville than in the past few decades. People dining out on the beautiful patios painted by local artists, live entertainment, acrobats, musicians who were paired with a café – this brings people together, sparks community pride and creates a more vibrant place to live.

The Gallery District is quickly evolving into a diverse ‘Cultural District.’ We have Theatre in the Wings, Gallery 121, Quinte Arts Council, Belleville Art Association, The Empire Theatre, Jesus Estevez at Thomas Estevez Design and, the new kid on the block, Bazaar Artisan Market set to open soon. And right around the corner on September 26 we celebrate the 12th annual Porchfest – presented by the Rotary Club of Belleville, in a single day, this is one of the largest community-building events around.

We know and appreciate the Bay of Quinte Tourism who assist and support the local businesses, non-profits and residents who propose innovative projects. We encourage municipal governments, our local MPP Todd Smith and MP Neil Ellis to invite creative leaders to share ideas, and encourage high-quality proposals that can make a real difference. A little investment in the arts can go a long way toward keeping our community on the forefront of the creative economy.