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Art makes good business sense Mary Salas | Sat, Jul 20 2013 12:00 PM

Imagine a Chula Vista with the arts weaving a beautiful tapestry of creative, economic and educational opportunity and prosperity throughout Chula Vista, feeding not only the soul, but business as well.

That was the vision back in 2006 when I chaired the Chula Vista Citizens Advisory Committee for the Arts. Six years ago the Chula Vista Arts Master Plan was presented to incorporate into the City’s General Plan. Unfortunately, Chula Vista was economically devastated by the recession of the past five years; implementation of the plan was shelved and placed low on the list of city priorities.

In that time we have learned a few things about the positive benefits arts programs bring to cities. One is that the arts, under any economic condition play a vital role in the welfare of the community. We also learned that through civic engagement and strategic partnerships the arts don’t have to be a costly luxury or a drain on community coffers, but rather a driver of community cohesiveness, innovative growth and artistic and business opportunity.

Now that we are emerging from the ugly shadow of recession, there is positive momentum building and a better understanding of how art can be and is an essential economic engine as Chula Vista takes its place as a community of greatness.

Art lovers in all their various forms have always understood that art builds more than cultural awareness and community, it builds business opportunity and real success stories.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen put it this way, “In my own philanthropy and business endeavors, I have seen the critical role that the arts play in stimulating creativity and in developing vital communities; the arts have a crucial impact on our economy and are an important catalyst for learning, discovery, and achievement in our country.”

To emphasize the point further, in a recent article in Western City magazine entitled, “How the Arts and Cultural Tourism Spur Economic Development,” California Arts Council Director Craig Watson outlined the synchronicity between art and business. Here are just a few telling numbers:

• There are 134,000 creative businesses in California

• They employ 500,000 people

• 100,000 more people work as freelancers or part-time workers

• There are 4,553 Arts Organizations in California

• Last year they contributed $3.56 billion to the economy

Beyond the economic impact, the quality of life reasons for nurturing art are undeniable. Again, quoting from the Watson article, “When Gallup and the Knight Foundation set out to answer the question “What attaches people to their communities?” in a three-year study, researchers found that the key reasons cited by residents for loving their cities were entertainment and social offerings, how welcoming the city is and its aesthetics — in other words, the arts and culture.”

Now is the time to take Chula Vista’s Arts Master Plan off the shelf, dust it off, revisit what was presented and reimagine it, taking into account what we have learned, what we hope to accomplish and incorporate new goals and directions.

Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested that, “art imitates life.” Writer, poet Oscar Wilde, thought it was more like, “life imitates art.” Either saying sets off the imagination and imagination is the real fuel for both art and business, or as modern day entrepreneur Russell Simmons says, “The imagination is how things get done. You have to cultivate creativity.” I believe that cultivating creativity here in Chula Vista through the arts makes good business sense.

Salas is a member of the Chula Vista City Council.

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