When is an Arts Festival not merely an “art” festival? When it is presented in Salem Ma as a cooperation between the arts community and the downtown merchants.

Now in its 10th year, the Salem Arts Festival fills the streets of Salem Ma from June 1-3 with performance art, gallery art, and mural art. Colors and sounds of creativity abound. And not only do the artists and visitors benefit, but so do merchants along the Essex Street Pedestrian walkway and on Front Street and Derby Square.

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Over the weekend, this free celebration of arts, culture, creativity and community will feature over 200 artists and performers, and includes a variety of art, music, dance, and theatre performances. Public activities include onsite art-making for all ages, local artist vendors selling their creations, a juried art exhibition and a community-built public art installation.

Why Support an Arts Festival in your community?

The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC) in 2004 conducted a comparative analysis of arts and cultural festivals operating within a 250-mile radius of Cleveland, Ohio. They settled on 22 festivals in 18 cities. Purpose of the research was to better understand the competitive environment Cleveland and Northeast Ohio arts and cultural festivals would encounter in the years ahead.

Key data I am pulling from the study is that arts festivals attract more than just the “locals” and they all come with intent to spend money— not just at the festival but also with local merchants.

  • Distance to attend: 85% of attendee’s from within 400 miles of Ann Arbor (15% from the US and Canada)
  • Economic impact: $44 million to Ann Arbor businesses
  • Distance to attend: 40% of attendee’s from within Charleston (15% rest of South Carolina, 25% rest of southeastern US, 20% rest of US and international)
  • Economic impact: $43.1 million in the Charleston area

Bottom line is that the analysis of all festivals indicated there was positive economic impact on transportation use, hotel occupancy and “overall increases in local economic spending for the region.”

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Proximity to a diverse Arts Festival is profitable.

If you clicked the link on Salem Arts Festival and read the Salem Main Streets blog (full disclosure, I write the blogs & tweets for SMS) please take note of the paragraph near the end:

A special thanks to over 30 businesses that supported the 10th anniversary of the festival through financial support and other means, the list of supporters can be found on the festival website.

What are your merchants, what are you doing to promote the socially and economically beneficial partnerships between the arts and small businesses in your community?