May 20, 2011

Arts events draw tourist dollars to NoCo

Summer is fast approaching and people across Northern Colorado are gearing up to drink beer, listen to good music, and check out the local art scene.

It seems every city and town has a big summer draw or two – Brew Fest, NewWestFest, Blues Jam, Arts Picnic, Sculpture in the Park, just to name a few – but how important are these to the local economy? Do they draw visitors – and their wallets – to our region? And are there numbers to back up how many of the attendees actually come from somewhere else and spend those out-of-town dollars here?

In Loveland the connection between the arts and tourism as an economic driver is very direct. At the beginning of May, city council approved $34,000 to promote the Loveland Sculpture Invitational and Sculpture in the Park, events scheduled for Aug. 12-14. The grant was recommend by the Community Marketing Commission, the city board charged with spending proceeds from a 3 percent tax on lodging that voters passed in November 2009.

“Loveland has a lot of public art and professional artists,´ said Marcie Erion, business development specialist for the city’s Office of Creative Sector Development. “The arts compose 8 percent of the working sector in Loveland. With 3,000 workers in the creative sector, that is equivalent to HP at its peak. The difference is that if you lose one or two artists it doesn’t collapse the economy. Coupling arts with tourism makes a stronger economic environment.”

Erion describes Loveland’s emphasis on the visual arts as “placemaking,” or focusing on what you have, what you do well, and how you leverage it. The intent is to draw artists and attendees from around the region. The Loveland Sculpture Invitational features more than 250 artists, and nearly two-thirds are from outside of Colorado. The Invitational received $19,000 of the grant for promotion, while Sculpture in the Park received $15,000 for direct marketing to high-income Denver ZIP codes.

“To track out-of-town visitors we collect data, we collect zip codes of patrons at events,” Erion said. “Interviewing people at key sites is important and we contact vendors like hotels to see how they do.” For the 2010 Loveland Sculpture Invitational and Sculpture in the Park, “We figure 20,000 visitors with 35 percent local, 50 percent regional and 15 percent national.”

Music is a part of “placemaking” in Greeley.

“We have absolutely great music,´ said Kim Parker, conference and tourism director at the Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Bureau. Events like the UNC Jazz Fest and the Blues Jam draw patrons from both inside and outside of the community. “Our main gauge for outside attendees is the number of hotel rooms booked for certain events,” Parker said. “This year there were 7,000 people in attendance at Jazz Fest and it brought in $450,000.”

The Blues Jam, slated for June 10-11 this year, generated $190,000 in 2010.

Fort Collins presents yet a different scenario.

“We do a visitor participation study that tracks summer visitors, but it does not survey events individually,” according to Jim Clark, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Convention and Visitor Bureau.

The summer 2010 survey was based on intercept interviews at a number of sites including microbrewery tours, brewpubs, tourist retail, downtown dining establishments, Foothills Mall, Horsetooth Reservoir and commercial whitewater rafting companies as well as mail-back surveys distributed through several hotels. According to the study, the top three primary reasons for choosing Fort Collins were being on vacation, visiting family and friends, and outdoor recreation.

Big events like the NewWestFest, then, are not necessarily the primary draw. “Performing arts adds culture and character to the destination but people come for a variety of reasons,” Clark said. “It gives added value to a place but it’s not a question of black-or-white or yes-and-no. Arts makes the town cool, and Fort Collins is one heck of a cool town, but there is a cornucopia of things this community offers.”

Lincoln Center reopening in July

Fort Collins’ Lincoln Center has announced the first act booked into the new and improved space for the 2011-12 season. Béla Fleck & the Flecktones will perform on April 4, 2012; the rest of the lineup could be revealed any day now.

For those of us who can’t wait that long to see the results of the $8 million renovation and expansion, the Lincoln Center will host a public open house from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14. And, in fact, the venue will reopen for events and performances on July 15.

In addition to the new rooftop deck, other improvements include state-of-the-art acoustical upgrades in both performance halls, a new self-contained and climate-controlled visual arts gallery, greatly expanded lobby spaces with three new permanent bars, new (and more) bathrooms, and a newly remodeled ballroom and outdoor terrace.

Renewing subscribers will be contacted about their 2011-12 season tickets soon; new subscribers will be able to purchase tickets on July 1, and single tickets will go on sale to the public on Aug. 9.

Center Forward at The Center for Fine Art Photography

“Center Forward,” an exhibition at The Center for Fine Art Photography, 400 N. College Ave. in Fort Collins, brings together a compelling range of imagery. Primarily figurative, the works range from Gabriela Herman’s evocative color photograph, “The Gloss,” of a woman working in the glow of her laptop to a black and white fleeting glimpse of a masked child in Peter Martin’s “Venice-041.” The exhibition runs through June 11, with an artists and public reception June 3.

Kiki Gilderhus, Ph.D., dean of Fine + Liberal Arts at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Denver, covers the arts for the Business Report. Contact her at news@ncbr.com.

Summer is fast approaching and people across Northern Colorado are gearing up to drink beer, listen to good music, and check out the local art scene.

It seems every city and town has a big summer draw or two – Brew Fest, NewWestFest, Blues Jam, Arts Picnic, Sculpture in the Park, just to name a few – but how important are these to the local economy? Do they draw visitors – and their wallets – to our region? And are there numbers to back up how many of the attendees actually come from somewhere else and spend…

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