Editorial: Pretty yet practical

The 2012 Castleton Festival may be over, but the Rappahannock hills remain alive to the sound not only of music but also of the enduring impact that music and other arts brings to the county. The economic echoes linger.

Although Rappahannock County itself does not compile statistics to support this claim, a recent study from the Georgia Institute of Technology seems to demonstrate conclusively (if there was ever any serious doubt) that the arts are not just about aesthetics.

The study, commissioned by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, surveyed 182 communities across the United States, including Alexandria, Charlottesville and Loudoun County here in Virginia. Rappahannock is, of course, not anywhere near as big as these jurisdictions, but the number of artists per capita here might arguably be even bigger.

For like the rocky Maine coast and the land of Santa Fe sunsets, Rappahannock is now well known as a mecca for artists and other members of the so-called creative classes. Our uniquely beautiful landscape justifiably draws and inspires plein air painters, for example. But more: These artists, and those that appreciate them, are community builders. Their sheer numbers, relative to the county’s total population, have reached the critical mass necessary to generate very real economic growth.

In nearby Charlottesville, for instance, the Americans for the Arts study found that each artistic or cultural event attracted non-resident attendees who spent an average of $68 per person, most of which was spent on meals, refreshments and overnight accommodations. The balance was spent primarily on souvenirs, gifts and other retail purchases.

These kinds of numbers are what tourism, when it contributes to local economies, is supposed to be all about. But it’s not just visitors to Rappahannock who spend. The study also found that each local resident attendee spent an average of $19 per event.  

Moreover, these cultural events created local jobs and generated not insignificant tax revenues to the local government.

In coming months, look for the newspaper to explore ever more interesting and exciting ways to encourage the continued growth of Rappahannock arts.