March 12, 2010

Economic development for Loveland arts makes sense

Bill Hudnut came to Northern Colorado about a year ago and gave some advice I believe many in Loveland have started to take to heart. He told us to be who we are.

When I think of Loveland, both as a native Lovelander and the owner of the Loveland Academy of Fine Arts Inc. for 10 years, I think of Loveland as an arts community first and foremost.

Today, however, we are in a very delicate position. We have an aging artist population and other factors weighing in that include the current economic situation. If Loveland doesn’t act quickly to retain and expand the manner in which we identify our city, we could lose something that truly defines us and allows us to add to the Northern Colorado experience. The window of opportunity is slowly closing and the time to act is now.

The city of Loveland has made some great efforts to look at this problem and to try to identify a solution. In January, Betsey Hale, business development manager for the city, assembled a large group of artist stakeholders in Loveland. The usual suspects showed up along with some new faces. All in all there were four areas the group determined that needed to be addressed in order for Loveland to be successful: infrastructure, economic development, education, and branding/marketing.

As the particulars were hashed out, it became apparent the way the city can lead the charge, to directly affect artists, is through economic development. When I say arts, I am talking about the art, artists and creative business sector in Loveland. As of August 2009, 2,766 workers in Loveland, out of a total workforce of 33,401, were employed in the arts and design related/cultural occupations. We are talking about taking steps to help 8 percent of Loveland’s workforce, the same way we have helped new energy businesses, developers and other organizations be successful, and thus make Loveland successful.

Embracing who we are

While the city has taken a convening role in this process, community member stakeholders have been driving the efforts and are embracing the concept of be what you are – and we are an arts community. So after six weeks of meetings, I believe there are some very encouraging ideas arising that demonstrate the city, our city council members, and our community members want to  embrace this and want to continue our reputation of being a premier arts community, regionally and nationally.

The Loveland Arts Economic Development Center concept has been drafted and is still being fleshed out before going to city council, but these efforts are the most positive gesture toward economic development of the arts in Loveland in over 10 years.

This “Center” as physical place provides the opportunity to work with the city to develop an economic development policy specifically for the creation, retention and expansion of jobs in the cultural occupations and to help Loveland with artist retention, recruitment and resources. It would also provide a “one-stop” shop for artists, business owners, consumers, citizens and prospects interested in moving to and/or starting businesses in Loveland.

Most importantly the center will form and maintain funding partnerships with the city of Loveland, private foundations, state and federal government agencies and others for the long-term financial stability of the organization.

As a community, if we want to continue to be great, we have to stand behind our unique characteristics. Now is the time to step up and create a strong economic development effort to help our current artists succeed and to show the art world that Loveland is serious about enhancing its reputation as a premier arts community.

We are so fortunate to live in an amazing city, in an amazing region of the country, and it is our job as a community to get behind those efforts that will help define who we are for generations to come.

Marcie Erion is a board member of the Erion Foundation, which supports projects dedicated to the betterment of the Loveland community.

Bill Hudnut came to Northern Colorado about a year ago and gave some advice I believe many in Loveland have started to take to heart. He told us to be who we are.

When I think of Loveland, both as a native Lovelander and the owner of the Loveland Academy of Fine Arts Inc. for 10 years, I think of Loveland as an arts community first and foremost.

Today, however, we are in a very delicate position. We have an aging artist population and other factors weighing in that include the current economic situation. If Loveland doesn’t…

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