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Arts Alliance Says Washtenaw County Is Falling Behind In Funding The Creative Sector

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A crowd at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Arts advocates say other Michigan communities will draw tourism dollars away if arts and cultural events are not properly funded in Washtenaw County.

 

Washtenaw County commissioners passed a resolution Wednesday night to merge local convention and visitors bureaus into one countywide department. Some arts advocates, including Arts Alliance CEO Deb Polich, are critical of the proposal for not specifying how much funding the new CVB will devote to arts and culture.

 

 

 

Polich says the resolution should contain specific language on how much investment arts and culture can expect from Washtenaw County. She says the county is beginning to fall behind other communities in Michigan who are devoting more resources to promoting the creative sector.

Polich says,

“We are beginning to lose our competitive edge here in Washtenaw County and the greater Ann Arbor area as other communities…”

She cites East Lansing, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and Flint as cities that are investing public dollars and creating public policy to support arts and culture.

According to Polich, the arts are one of the main reasons people visit Washtenaw County. A study by the Ann Arbor Community Foundation recently backs up that claim.

 

AACF President Neel Hajra says the data shows that the arts and culture sector has a significant impact on a city’s economy.

 

Hajra says,

 

“I think the data that we’ve generated...shows the direct link between arts and culture investment and economic activity. [It} should help shape not just CVBs, but anyone who’s contemplating advancing the economy in Washtenaw County.”

Goodwill agreements and verbal promises of funding have been made between the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and arts advocates, Polich says. Nevertheless, she's worried those agreements could be forgotten in time if they’re not specified in the resolution commissioners passed Wednesday night.

 

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