Natchez is on the verge of becoming a flourishing art community - and this is very exciting news. Why is this happening and why is it exciting?
Katrina was a devastating tragedy, but as the old proverb says, "it's an ill wind that blows no one any good". In this case, many artists "blew" into Natchez after Katrina. Many saw it as a temporary place, but they fell in love with Natchez and decided to stay. And word spreads among the artistic community, as more artists came to visit and to live.
So just how many artists do we have? We really have no idea. However, a little over a year ago, Jerry Dixon, an artist from Bay St Louis who now lives here, organized the first Natchez Artists Studio Tour. He knew artists' studio tours were very successful in Bay St Louis, so he decided to try one here. It was enormously successful. That first tour had 34 artists, and we were amazed there were that many here. This past fall, the second tour attracted over 50 artists! Who knew?
I've become involved with a new organization that has formed to benefit those artists - and our community. It's called ArtsNatchez, and you may have read about it in Tammi Gardner's Top of the Morning in the Democrat today. ArtsNatchez Inc is a nonprofit membership organization whose purpose is to promote artists and art in the Natchez area. As part of our mission, we are opening a cooperative gallery for local artists to be located at 110 Union Street - right next to a new studio that was just opened by the renowned artist Owen Shugard. Maybe we have the beginnings of an art section.
If you want more information about ArtsNatchez, send us an email. We're still accepting applications from artists, although we've almost reached capacity. But most importantly, we're looking for patrons and supporters. We're at the beginning of our campaign to raise enough funds for our first year's operating expenses. This is a chance for you to invest in the future of Natchez.
So why in the world should you care about all this if you're not an artist and you don't buy art? Easy. Art is a big business - and it feeds on itself. The more art you have, the more you attract. People who want to purchase art rarely will go out of town to visit just one gallery. Instead they want to go to a community with lots of options. And these are people with big bucks!
Let's look at some data from Arts & Economic Prosperity III, an exhaustive study done by Americans for the Arts. A successful industry is one that brings dollars from outside the community. Local spending just takes our dollars and redistributes them. But outside money brings new sources of income and new jobs. For example, if you open a new restaurant where only the locals eat, you are just taking money from some other restaurant. If, however, your restaurant attracts diners from all over, you are bringing new money into the local economy. Research has shown that 78% of revenues from art come from outside the community - but it stays here.
Here's another fact you may not know. When businesses are looking to start up or relocate in an area, 88% cite that the arts are one of the best indicators of quality of life. And here's another little know fact, the art business is one of the few growth industries in the country. Community after community across this country have utilized the arts as a basis to revitalize their economy. And Natchez can, too.