August 7, 2017

Opinion: Artistic space influences the economy

Laura Marotta

After decades of quietly lying under the radar, the city of Worcester is rapidly being revitalized. Developers are finally taking a harder look at our properties, and the future couldn't look brighter. How does a fast-growing economy, wanting to say yes to many outside developers who will bring precious dollars into our city, retain its heart and soul – the culture of our community?

If you want to look for a healthy community, look to its arts scene. In the past three to five years, we have seen restaurants, hotels, farmer's markets, and small but highly successful entrepreneurial endeavors continue to thrive here. Even Main South – a neighborhood with a tough reputation – holds many hidden gems such as the Nine Dot Gallery and Tito's Bakery.

More than a century ago, Worcester's bustling streets were home to hard-working immigrants who represented the heart and soul of the city's thriving industrial economy. Today, the city is home to a very similar scene: hard-working individuals, many of whom are immigrant families bringing a wealth of culture, collaboration and joy to this densely populated heart of Massachusetts.

In cities like Providence, Baltimore and Alexandria, Va. visitors and residents have access to a host of creative opportunities throughout every region of the city. Whether you are a viewer or a maker, you will have something to take part in to help you to deeply connect with the culture of the area. This is what makes a city memorable; this is what makes a city a place that people want to call home.

In a recent visit to AS220, a highly successful arts center in Providence, R.I. growing for the past three decades, I witnessed a fashion show accompanied by a film and musical performance put on by a group of local, at-risk youth from a community center. It was a highly moving and dramatic performance, highlighting such subjects as Black Lives Matter, immigration and expressing identity. In speaking with the staff, I learned that this is one of many rapidly growing community-based arts and culture programs changing the way that the city connects with all of its residents.

As a city with rich cultural heritage, Worcester needs to set the stage for a thriving and sustainable cultural district expanding well into communities such as Main South. The city, the state, as well as local foundations and businesses, all need to healthily support initiatives holding the promise of reaching our extremely diverse group of residents and visitors alike. Endeavors such as incubators, community centers, public art projects, theaters and makerspaces are the key to preserving the vibrant culture on which Worcester was founded.

Laura Marotta is the executive director of Creative Hub Worcester.


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