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Art as an Economic Development Tool: Unleashing the Creative Potential of DeKalb County, Alabama

People often ask why we started Boom Town Makers Market in Fort Payne, Alabama. I think the simple answer to that question is timing. But it’s really so much more.

Fort Payne had applied for Main Street accreditation, giving way to Fort Payne Main Street. With the accreditation came market research conducted by Main Street Alabama —what a gift to our small town, and an eye-opening experience for me—someone who’d spent their entire career creating consumer messaging.

Main Street Alabama, a member of Main Street America identified the fact that our area had an abundance of artistic talent and artists could use a place to showcase their work. That term “maker’s market” was relatively new, but the research showed that art could drive consumer interest, something I knew a thing or two about.

The Sawyer Building, the oldest commercial building in downtown Fort Payne had just been purchased by a family with a deep love for our community and was in the midst of a revitalization—and that’s how it all began; qualified demand, resources to fuel demand, a historic building, and a desire to help redevelop downtown Fort Payne. All the elements convened—the stars aligned—and the timing was right.

In the heart of Alabama lies DeKalb County, a region brimming with natural beauty, rich history, and untapped creative potential. While many may not immediately associate art with economic development in this rural county, the power of artistic expression has the potential to transform the region into a vibrant cultural and economic hub.

In this blog post, I’d like to delve into the importance of art as an economic development tool and explore how DeKalb County can harness this potential for its benefit.

Cultural Revitalization and Tourism:

Art has an incredible ability to breathe life into communities, creating a sense of place and identity. By investing in local artists and supporting creative initiatives, DeKalb County can foster a cultural renaissance that attracts visitors and tourists. The region’s breathtaking landscapes, historic landmarks, and unique cultural heritage can serve as inspiration for artists to create works of art that capture the essence of the area. These creations, in turn, become powerful marketing tools, enticing tourists to explore DeKalb County, visit local galleries, and patronize businesses, thus boosting the local economy.

Entrepreneurship and Creative Industries:

Art is not only about painting or sculpture; it encompasses a wide array of creative industries, including design, fashion, film, and music. By nurturing a creative ecosystem, DeKalb County can support local entrepreneurs, artists, and designers, enabling them to establish businesses and contribute to the local economy. Initiatives such as artist co-working spaces, incubators, and art festivals can provide platforms for networking, collaboration, and business development, attracting creative professionals from within and outside the county.

Education and Workforce Development:

Investing in arts education and training programs can cultivate a skilled workforce and create employment opportunities. By integrating arts into schools and community centers, DeKalb County can nurture the creative talents of its youth, fostering a new generation of artists, designers, and performers. Additionally, providing vocational training in creative industries can equip individuals with the necessary skills to thrive in art-related professions, enhancing local employment rates and reducing brain drain.

Community Engagement and Well-being:

Art has the power to bring people together, fostering a sense of belonging and community pride. By organizing art events, workshops, and exhibitions, DeKalb County can create a vibrant arts scene that encourages community engagement and cultural participation. Moreover, art has been shown to improve mental health and well-being, and by promoting artistic activities, the county can enhance the quality of life for its residents.

DeKalb County, Alabama, is teeming with potential as a hub for artistic expression and creative industries. By recognizing the importance of art as an economic development tool, the county can leverage its cultural heritage, natural beauty, and the talents of its people to build a thriving creative economy. Through strategic investments in arts education, cultural revitalization, entrepreneurship, and community engagement, DeKalb County can unlock its full potential and create a brighter, more prosperous future for its residents. The time is ripe for DeKalb County to embrace the transformative power of art and unlock the economic benefits it can bring.

By Darlene Rotch, Curator, Boom Town Makers Market