A coming festival has combined with growth in arts employment to create a melodic symphony in Clark County. A vibrant arts scene has both an economic and cultural impact on a community.
The Vancouver USA Arts & Music Festival is scheduled for Friday through Sunday in and around Esther Short Park and downtown Vancouver. The main stage at Esther Short will include performances by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with classical-crossover string trio Time for Three; acclaimed violinist Anne Akiko Meyers; and pianist Orli Shaham. Dance performances, art exhibits and film screenings also will be part of the festivities, and all events are free.
“Everyone should have access to the arts,” said Igor Shakhman, executive director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. “Let’s make this three days of immersion and celebration of the arts, and nobody has to worry about buying tickets.”
Meanwhile, the latest local jobs report shows hearty growth in arts and entertainment. The sector has added 300 jobs since June 2022 and 100 since May of this year, reflecting a post-pandemic boost in live performances. The year-over-year growth is a 15 percent increase, helping to drive an employment boom throughout the county.
In a service-based economy, the capitalistic benefits of arts and intellectual pursuits often are overlooked. In fact, they often are targets of scorn, as recent backlash against public libraries has demonstrated. But creative endeavors are essential for a dynamic community, generating a vibrancy that enhances the quality of life and attracts residents and businesses.
As The Columbian has written in the past: “A growing body of studies say to really breathe life back into a city, drop your eyes from the towering edifices and look at the people — specifically, creative people. National studies show jobs are created and economies are stimulated by supporting the arts and a creative workforce.”
And as the National League of Cities has written: “The arts and culture generate tax revenue far beyond any government investment, adding dollars to city coffers and helping city budgets. For example, the arts constitute a bigger share of America’s GDP than construction or agriculture.”
That reflects the dollars and cents of the issue, but the arts also provide intrinsic value. “Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world,” Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham, told NPR.
The same can be said for society as a whole. Studies have demonstrated that the arts enhance a sense of community and an individual’s ability to feel empathy, providing experiences that generate a shared sense of purpose. That can be forged through live performances, permanent public art or policies that encourage creative pursuits. As one analysis puts it: “We see community arts playing an important role in the social cohesion of communities, and building bridges across the gaps of understanding that divide us.”
That philosophy has been the impetus for this weekend’s festivities. Vancouver-based Murdock Charitable Trust delivered a $600,000 grant for three years of downtown arts festivals; the city of Vancouver has contributed money and in-kind support; and the nonprofit Columbia Arts Network has taken the lead on visual-arts activities.
It is all part of creating a full-service community that enriches all residents.