The purpose of this memo is for the Chief of Staff to make an urban revitalization case for tax dollars in order to construct a cultural facility in New Hudson. This policy brief proposes that undertaking an arts-based urban revitalization strategy will be effective in alleviating New Hudson’s existing economic struggles by weighing the pros and cons at hand. Examining North Adams as a model for an arts-based urban revitalization, with its establishment of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) will be worthwhile given the similar geographical, economic and social contexts both towns are in.
Potential Merits of an Arts-based Revitalization Strategy
New jobs will be created. New Hudson’s struggles with rising unemployment can in part be resolved by the construction of a cultural facility because of the job opportunities generated by the creation of this new cultural sphere in the town. On top of the new jobs created by the establishment of the cultural facility, the demand for employed workers (especially in the service sector) will increase. Generally, building a new cultural institution in a rural town like New Hudson will lead to a significant increase in commercial activity. For instance, looking back to the case of North Adams, the new jobs created as a result of MASS MoCA’s existence spanned a diversity of sectors, ranging from restaurants to educational services. Moreover, employment data from the Census Bureau reflects a “net increase of 44 new businesses in North Adams in the three years following the opening of MASS MoCA compared to the four years preceding its opening, adding 225 new jobs to the city”.1
Stream of tourism revenue. The creation of a cultural facility, such as an art museum will attract visitors from other states, and even countries to the town. Shaping New Hudson as a new tourist destination will raise the profile of the town, just as how MASS MoCA helped to revitalize North Adams which was previously a small industrial town with minimal appeal to tourists. Naturally, tourism revenue will be boosted with the unprecedented influx of tourists given the successful construction of said cultural facility. Their arrival impacts tourism-related industries such as that of hospitality, food and beverage, retail, transportation, just to name a few.
Attracting people from neighboring towns and cities. In particular, the youth, especially artists from nearby towns and cities will be lured by New Hudson’s nascent arts scene. Moreover, as with the case of North Adams, artists were attracted to the town through two major mill conversion projects providing artist live/work space.2 Visibly, such a policy cushioned the inflow of young artists into the town, something New Hudson can potentially emulate.
Consolidated local identity and increased community pride. The introduction of a cultural institution to New Hudson is beneficial because it makes the town a livelier and more desirable place to live in. Furthermore, the development of a new cultural institution imbues a sense of pride and common identity in the community. Following the development of the MASS MoCA, North Adams experienced vast improvements in the town’s social infrastructure that enhanced the desirability of the town’s urban environment. Importantly, the existence of MASS MoCA also “slowly transforming residents, providing them with the human and social capital needed to participate in the Berkshire tourism and knowledge economy.3 Therefore, the achievable transition towards a knowledge and service economy is something New Hudson can aim for with the introduction of a cultural facility in the town.
Potential Problems and Pitfalls of an Arts-based Revitalization Strategy
Relevance of arts to local community. In light of the rural setting of the town, adopting an arts-based revitalization strategy might not be the most effective solution because