The Arts - Who Needs'Em?
by Cassi_Costoulas
 The Arts Scene in Your Backyard
March 01, 2012 06:01 AM | 2216 views | 5 5 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

There has been a lot of talk recently in the city of Marietta about the value of the arts. Are they worth keeping around? Do they depend too much on “hand-outs” from others? These are  good questions and indicators that we have a strong community that is involved and interested in the inner-workings of the world around them. I think I can help answer the first questions about the value of the arts in this city, and hopefully shed some light on the other.

I’m going to go ahead and disclose that I am the Director of Business Development and Marketing at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre. That means that I have a vested interest in the success of the arts in this city, but it also means that I have an insider’s look and numbers and facts to throw your way. If it offends you that my view might be slanted, please feel free to stop reading at any point. I hope you don’t, though, because these knowledge bombs gonna blow your mind! 


(People and Money)

The Strand alone sees around 70,000 people a year walk through its doors. From over 200 different zip codes. The Atlanta Lyric consistently pulls patrons from ITP and shows them how hip hoppin’ OTP can be. On Monday, Palmer Wells of Theatre in the Square told the story at the City Council’s meeting about the arts of a couple that frequently drives down to Marietta from Chattanooga for their shows and stays in a hotel for the weekend.

That equals money for the community. Big money for area restaurants, and money from outsiders paying our sales tax. If you like numbers, and I have only Strand numbers here, but The Strand with the aid of its resident Atlanta Lyric Theatre generates and estimated $71,274 in local tax revenues A YEAR.  That of course doesn’t include Theatre on the Square, the museums, Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theatre, and the numerous art festivals and walks that happen on the square.

If you don’t believe me about restaurants benefitting from local arts functions, check out the mass exodus that happens from the dining establishments around the square Friday nights around 7:45. It’s like an ice cream truck sounded outside a tee-ball game. 

(Quality of Life)

Aside from it being nice to have a center of town that people actually want to go to, the arts in this city consist of a lot more than just the theaters that people go to on weekend nights. Students are able to supplement their often bare-bones arts education within the school system with dance classes, acting classes, summer camps, or art classes in Marietta. Students who participate in the arts have higher test scores and are more engaged students. The arts are helping create kids with super quick brains that are probably going to be out there creating robots or something someday. See how important that is?

Adults need art, too. We’re in tough economic times and people need outlets and escapism. After a tough day at work, there is absolutely nothing like allowing oneself to enjoy someone else’s story for a while and the arts let us do that. Let the arts die and you lose what keeps a lot of people sane during tough times. And then what happens? Zombies, obviously. Or a bunch of people that have nothing else to talk about at dinner than the news. And that might be worse. 

The Question of Handouts

So, I’m going to tread very lightly on this subject because I understand that as individuals, we value things differently and have a variety of opinions on charity and where tax dollars are spent. I will give three quick facts on this subject.

  • The average arts organization in the United States depends on donations to cover over 50% of its budget. Many of the arts groups in Marietta operate with significantly less outside support.
  • Many state government and grant programs that have been operating for years are no longer giving ANY money out to anyone.
  • Donors that pledge an amount and request payments over a period of time are not in any way bound to complete payments.

So go ahead and plug those items into your brain when you’re reading all the back and forth about the situation that your community is in right now.

I think it is easy for some to become dismissive about the cultural establishments in Marietta. Either because they don’t frequent them or they don’t understand how these organizations affect the overall community. My hope is that people can start looking at this situation as it concerns the community as a whole, not just their particular circle of friends. And to the haters who don’t feel like looking at the situation in a positive and constructive way, I hope you all get big hugs. Because your negativity is giving you wrinkles.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Mary Ladd
March 04, 2012
Nicely said, Cassi.
Jennifer Brett
March 02, 2012
Nice job!
March 01, 2012
Great article. I wish more people would just speak plain.

One of the wonderful things about theatre (and live performance in general) is that it's one of the few places in our digital age where people can go to share a communal experience.

The arts only work when people realize what purpose they serve and how it affects them. No, it's not curing cancer or inventing rocket fuel, but it's a chance for members of the community to hold the mirror up to the community at large and start a dialogue. It's a time for reflection and personal growth--and yes, entertainment!

If theatres want to stay around, they need to start taking risks (this does not mean "put a penis onstage") and generating content we can't see in New York or on TV. There is a wealth of untapped artistic potential in Atlanta and it's being wasted.
Marietta Native
March 01, 2012
Great article! Good to get some firm numbers about this issue with all the misinformation flying around.
March 01, 2012
Point well-made, but a habit of pandering for sponsorships has crippled the art scene in Marietta. Our theatres have been reduced to satellite country clubs full of donors patting themselves on their backs for their generosities. (Visit The Strand for any Art Walk event and you'll see what I mean).

Fostering the arts drives revenue and encourages better businesses to locate to an area. If the theatres on the square want my money, they're going to have to produce better content.

P.S. Can someone start a Kickstarter campaign to fix the blown out speakers in The Strand? The sound quality was terrible last time I saw a movie there.
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