One of our favorite catchphrases is “the arts are the backbone of our region.” And that is especially true of the City of Hartford, where arts, heritage, and cultural organizations are so ingrained in the local economy.
They are a primary driver of tourism, welcome millions of visitors each year, and support hundreds and hundreds of jobs; the arts have a huge impact on the service sectors—like restaurants, parking lots and small businesses—that depend on an influx of patrons from the surrounding suburbs.
Without the arts, Hartford would be just another commuter town, a nine to five destination for state and city employees.
The best illustration of the importance of the arts to the city’s economy is the Hartford Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant Program, one of the many grants initiatives managed and administered by the Greater Hartford Arts Council. These grants are a partnership between the City of Hartford and the Arts Council, and are specifically designed to really quantify and measure the impact of arts, heritage, and cultural programming on the city’s “bottom line,” and to show how a vibrant arts community can generate jobs and play a vital role in redefining the urban environment.
Since 2009, the city has invested over $2 million in arts programming, events, and micro-enterprise businesses in the arts—everyone from graphic designers to local vendors providing much-needed services to artists living and working in Hartford.
The program has seen tremendous success, generating almost $4.5 million in economic activity and, most importantly, supporting dozens of full and part-time jobs. “Job creation” initiatives have certainly become the latest national craze, and this program has a three-year track record of creating and supporting jobs through the arts—a testament to the impact of the arts.
It’s amazing to see of the different projects and job opportunities made possible by the Jobs Grant program. It’s supported youth employment initiatives that teach costume craftsmaking, provided funding for the restoration of a historic home, and helped the city’s symphony give at-risk children access to music and nonviolence education.
Jobs Grant dollars provide essential project-specific grants that make sure our arts institutions and local artists can continue to push the envelope and create amazing programs that captivate the community.
This grant program is wildly successful because it’s a sustainable approach to the arts: the money stays local, providing much-needed support for our Hartford-based arts organizations and artists while generating business for small business owners and attracting thousands of visitors to the city.
The Jobs Grant program was recently awarded an Audrey Nelson Award from the National Community Development Association, a prestigious honor we’re especially proud of. Through an important partnership with the municipal leadership in the City of Hartford, we’ve been able to show—with tangible results—how important the arts are to stimulating the local economy.