The Island’s reputation as a cultural hot spot is deserved, according to a recent study that says artistic and cultural endeavors are twice as prevalent on the Vineyard as elsewhere in the state.
The Island’s creative sector makes up 10.2 per cent of the overall economy, according to a study published by Arts MV, a new Island cultural collaborative. The study, which amalgamated research by the University of Massachusetts and the New England Foundation for the Arts, found that arts and culture comprise 4.2 per cent of the overall Island economy, roughly twice the state average.
Arts and culture refers to businesses within arts-related manufacturing, retail, recreation, entertainment and other related industries. The creative economy includes arts and culture, as well as publishing, architectural, engineering, interior and landscaping design industries. The authors say the study’s findings can be used to garner more community support for the arts.
“That arts and culture drive such a strong percentage of our economy is profoundly significant,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. “Other communities around the country leverage arts and culture to bolster ancillary industries and they do it in a coordinated effort. [The study] gives us a jumping-off point to begin our conversation in our own community.”
In July, collaborative steering committee members presented the findings of the January report to town selectmen, county government and town boards of trade. “We want governmental officials to know that the arts is a significant part of our economy,” said Ann Smith, chairman of the steering committee and executive director of Featherstone Center for the Arts.
The report combines the findings of a 2005 study by the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and a 2007 study by the New England Foundation for the Arts. It also published the findings of a survey directed at individuals involved in the arts on the Island.
Arts MV received funding for the report through a Massachusetts Cultural Council planning grant.
The collaborative, now in its second year of existence, intends to bind Island artists, arts organizations and for-profit entities together in a concerted effort to market their products and events more effectively. It’s also about sharing trade secrets among imaginative Islanders and presenting the arts as an important piece of the social landscape of the Island, steering committee members said.
Their first initiative is Fall for the Arts, an effort to bring patrons of the arts to the Island during the fall. “We are encouraging people to come back in our shoulder season, to communicate to them that there are things to do in the month of October,” Ms. Smith said. “The art season isn’t just from Memorial Day to Labor Day. With a coordinated effort . . . we can bring more people to the Island, and make all Martha’s Vineyard businesses successful.”
Eventually, the collaborative hopes to create an arts database, as well as market tourist packages involving organizations, hotels, galleries and restaurants. The collaborative is modeled after the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, a group that promotes the interests of artists and arts organizations of Barnstable County.
Steering committee members — primarily Island arts advocates — don’t expect immediate results but say the formation of partnerships is a worthwhile process to begin. “We have to get a behavior of people working together,” said David White, who is in his second summer as executive and artistic director of The Yard, a dance performance organization in Chilmark. “It’s all about building these relationships and sustaining them. You have to get to know people, have to know how they think, to be able to build a structure that supports everybody’s agenda, no matter how contradictory.”
Mr. White also hopes the organization will have a positive impact on Island government groups. “It is a way of looking at culture as a mortar of community building. [Arts collaboration] gives rise to other ways of cooperating,” he said.
Patrick Phillips, publisher of Arts and Ideas magazine and a member of the steering committee, said: “We are all connected by the arts. When somebody sees something that’s invigorating or inspiring, it invigorates the entire community . . . The economy of the arts resuscitates and revives the community . . . Arts hold the wisdom and the aspirations of the community.”
To read the January report in its entirety, visit artsmarthasvineyard.org.