Raleigh has designs on becoming arts destination
Posted March 13, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Although Raleigh is already a state capital, city leaders have their eyes on a bigger stage – making Raleigh the arts capital of the South.
Officials spent the past week holding community forums to get some inspiration as they craft a 10-year plan that capitalizes on the economic benefits of a thriving arts scene.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she wants Raleigh to be the place people think about when they think art, and she wants art to be a staple of the city's scenery.
"Arts really define who you are, and everyone is really starting to understand the arts as an economic driver," McFarlane said Friday.
Two years ago, for example, Raleigh managed to lure the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual convention from Nashville, Tenn., and the convention last fall injected nearly $11 million into the local economy.
"(Companies) are looking to locate where people want to live, and a vibrant art scene is key to where people want to live," McFarlane said. "This is a more globalized world, and people are choosing where they want to live primarily and then deciding where they want to work."
Jerry Bolas, director of the Office of Raleigh Arts, said he wants art "popping up" in every neighborhood across the city, so people experience art in more than just in museums and concert halls and art becomes part of Raleigh's tapestry.
Sculptor Meg Stein, who displays her work at ArtSpace downtown, said she sees the city as one big palette.
"Having art around, it makes people want to go out. It makes them enjoy the city more. It makes people feel good," Stein said. "They can come out to see the art, then they spend money in restaurants."
Raleigh native Corinna Knight said restaurants aren't the only businesses to take advantage of the arts.
"Even businesses downtown are looking at how they can incorporate art into their business, and local art, which is great. So, it's encouraging," Knight said.
City officials continue to seek ideas from residents in surveys and online for the long-range plan on how best to support the arts community. They plan to have a draft ready by summer before opening it to public comment and then sending the final proposal to the City Council in the fall.