Economic development depends on a region's ability to attract and retain well-educated, innovative people. These top wage earners can work from wherever they choose to live. Therefore, businesses offer increasingly attractive workplace amenities ? yet, their influence is limited when it comes to cultural amenities. For a region to attain population influx and a sustainable level of business growth, the focus must be on a good, well-balanced quality of life for its residents.
"Cultivation to the mind, is as necessary as food to the body." ? Cicero
How does a region offer a well-balanced quality of life? Supply and demand. With economic growth, the demand for housing, retail, financial institutions, warehousing, restaurants and many more types of businesses will have to be in supply. But by far, the most demanding requirement is the "supply" of cultural amenities.
With a background in real estate, I have heard these words from employers, "We need this person to come to work for us ? now we want you to sell him on the area." To accomplish this, I ascertain the family's demands and almost invariably arts and culture figure prominently.
Our region is blessed with offering a well-balanced quality of life. It would be difficult to imagine Jonesborough without Storytelling, Johnson City without Hands On! Museum, Kingsport without Symphony of the Mountains, Bristol without Paramount Performing Arts Center, or Abingdon without Barter Theatre. These organizations and many others are our region's cultural glue.
We need to thank our arts organizations. Thanks for being an economic driver, for making our community a desirable place to live and for giving ALL children access to the arts experience. And thank you for your constant effort to please. We must not forget our artists' valuable contributions in providing us all with a better quality of life. I will never understand why there is such financial division between the arts and business. The Arts is a business. Though many are not compensated adequately with money, their love and passion for their art sustains them ? and we all benefit.
Serving on the Tennessee Arts Commission for six years, I traveled throughout the state, the thirst I saw in children and adults for knowledge of the arts, especially in rural areas, is overwhelming and must be sated. I truly believe providing meaningful arts education to all students must be a priority. It is a fact that "at risk" children, when provided artistic opportunities, are more successful in other aspects of their education and lives. We are fortunate. We do not have to imagine East Tennessee or Southwest Virginia without the arts because they are with us and help us to make each day less ordinary.
Let us all support the arts ? they need us and we need these extraordinary wonderful individuals that make our souls vibrate.