Wednesday, April 25, 2012


You go where you know. To attract residents, you have to get on the radar of people who are looking to leave.  One of the migrations I know best is the Ohio-to-South Carolina connection. Folks from Youngstown get a taste for the good life while vacationing on the Rust Belt's own Redneck Riviera. A link is born. Buckeyes are overrunning Charleston.

While Pittsburgh isn't in the same league as a tourist draw, there are other avenues available. In June of 2013, Americans for the Arts will hold its annual convention there:

An estimated 1,500 artists, educators, community leaders and business supporters are expected to attend the convention, said officials from Americans for the Arts at a meeting at Highmark headquarters at Fifth Avenue Place with business and foundation leaders.

Pittsburgh beat out Boston, Minneapolis and Chicago, among other cities, said Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, which helped put together the city's winning bid.

"There was an advance team that came here, and two of them had never been to Pittsburgh before. They had a 30-year-old view of the old Pittsburgh -- smoky, polluted. They were shocked to see how untrue that was," said Mr. Swain, whose group represents the region's arts, artists and cultural organizations.

The visitors were given personal tours by leaders including Lynn Zelevansky, director of Carnegie Museum of Art; Kevin McMahon, who heads the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Eric Shiner of the Andy Warhol Museum; Andre Kimo Stone Guess, CEO of the August Wilson Center; and Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk of the Mattress Factory.

The advance team "was really interested in how the city used arts and culture as an economic engine to redevelop neighborhoods, both Downtown and beyond," Mr. Swain said.

Emphasis added. Okay, so Pittsburgh was on their radar, but not in a good way. Such a reputation repels migrants. Ask Ann Arbor about living in the shadow of Detroit. Attitudes about Pittsburgh are changing for the better. This conference will help a great deal.

Americans for the Arts is keen to get out the message that creative endeavors spur economic development:

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences documents the key role played by the nonprofit arts and culture industry in strengthening our nation’s economy. This study demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communities—a growth industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.

We are happy to announce that this summer we will release Arts & Economic Prosperity IV—the fourth edition of this critical study. With the help of over 180 research partners, we have collected 150,000 audience intercept surveys from cultural event attendees, as well as detailed budget and attendance information from 8,000 nonprofit arts and culture organizations across the country.  This will be the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted!

Imagine Pittsburgh as the centerpiece of this study. Your community can pull a Pittsburgh! Screw that. Take the short cut and move to Pittsburgh. That's what I think will happen. It's like going to Mardi Gras and hoping the party never ends.

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