On October 11th the Allentown Chamber of Commerce and the City of Allentown joined with the Cultural Coalition of Allentown and the Allentown Art Museum to continue a conversation on the arts as business that started on September 8th at the “Whose Business is the Arts?” conference presented by the Lehigh Valley Arts Council.

While there was much discussed at this event, one of the primary concerns was to continue to define how we can engage with the arts community as an industry rather than as a charity.

The arts contribute $186 million of annual economic activity in the Lehigh Valley. This impact is substantial, and influences much of the social, educational, and economic fabric of our community. It is, however, both fragile and a struggle on many fronts.

The story of most every successful community revitalization leverages the arts as a part of their economic plan. From New York to LA examples of cultural revitalization of urban centers abounds. Creativity is now a fundamental component needed for the development of an educated work force. Exposure to the arts, any arts, has been proven over and over again to provide a foundation for educational excellence. Unique opportunities to engage the arts expands the quality of life for all. The recruitment and retention of top quality talent is often dependent upon the sustainability of top quality arts institutions and diverse cultural experiences.

The conversation on October 11th focused more on “business” than the “arts”. Specifically, exploring the economic benefits and needs of a vibrant cultural economy and engaging in a conversation with both our business and cultural leaders seeking ideas and aspirations for a fully developed and impactful arts and cultural sector and the creation of synergies guiding both our business and cultural development.

Watch for more to come from this ongoing dialogue revolving around the arts role in the economic development of Allentown and the region.

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