It's official: Spartanburg has received its cultural arts district designation from the South Carolina Arts Commission, making it one of only three cities in the state to boast one.
The S.C. Legislature approved the cultural arts district designation last year, and so far, Rock Hill and Lancaster join Spartanburg. It won't mean any additional funding from the state, but Spartanburg can use the designation as a marketing tool to bring in visitors.
Jennifer Evins, president of The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg, said in 2012, her organization began gathering an inventory of all the arts venues and activities in downtown Spartanburg, which helped in securing the cultural designation. The Arts Partnership received the go-ahead from Spartanburg City Council to apply for the designation earlier this year.
The district is about four square blocks from Barnet Park to Spartanburg Community College's downtown campus on Kennedy Street and west on Kennedy to the Grain District, and is bordered on its northern edge by the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium.
According to the arts inventory, completed in 2014, the district included 21 indoor live performance venues; nine outdoor performance venues; 43 galleries or exhibit spaces; 38 murals and other public art displays; five museums; 64 studios and workshops; six historic sites; 15 greenspaces and arboretums; 251 creative industry and cultural jobs; and 1,335 events and festivals open to the public.
“We want people to be proud that we're an arts town,” Evins said. “We're a Bike Town and a college town — this is another feather in our cap.”
The S.C. Arts Commission is working with the Arts Partnership to develop a strategic plan for the district. Evins said the five goals of Spartanburg's plan are: increase pedestrian and visitor activity; increase residency downtown and business occupancy; attract new creative enterprises; foster art and performances in public spaces; and celebrate Spartanburg's evolving cultural identity.
All of those goals are measurable, Evins said, through looking at the ratio of occupied and empty buildings downtown, the number of cultural events and participation rates, residency and ownership rates of buildings downtown and by the collection of sales, hospitality and accommodations taxes collected within the district.
The district will help The Arts Partnership and other entities promote downtown Spartanburg as an arts destination, Evins said.
“We have such a vibrant arts community,” she said. “This will give us a chance to tell the world just how strong it is.”
Local artists will have the opportunity to apply for $1,000 grants to create temporary art installations and other promotional items to announce the designation, Evins said.
Will Rothschild, the city of Spartanburg's communications manager, served on the cultural district steering committee. He said one of the things world class cities have in common is a thriving arts community.
“It (the state designation) confirms that we have a thriving arts community in this city,” Rothschild said. “It will be a great economic development tool.”
In deciding where to locate a new business, investors look at areas where they'll be in close proximity to a high quality of life, Rothschild said.
“Cultural and arts amenities are a huge component of that,” he said.
View article as it appears on GoUpstate.com