The arts are essential to community growth and tourism. That was the conclusion of two Kentucky mayors during a panel discussion at the Kentucky Travel Industry Association annual conference last month in Louisville.
The panel titled “Local Elected Officials Talk Tourism” included mayors and county judge-executives from across the state. Panelists discussed how and why they came to recognize the value of tourism in their respective communities.
The mayors, Brandi Harless of Paducah and Dick Heaton of Bardstown, were asked how their communities leveraged the arts to promote tourism. Harless cited noteworthy Paducah arts amenities like the International Quilt Museum, Market House Theatre and Maiden Alley Cinema. The city also benefits from its classification as a United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) City of Crafts and Folk Art, a designation Paducah earned in 2013. Heaton said Bardstown benefits from the presence of “The Stephen Foster Story” summer theater offerings, as well as a former boys’ school repurposed as an arts space.
“The arts are part of the quality of life story that a community can tell,” Heaton told the audience.
Business is an essential component to quality of life in a community as well, and increased tourism is good for business. The arts council encourages a relationship between business and the arts, whether it is a bank hosting an exhibit of work by a local artist or a collection of businesses banding together to sponsor a music festival that will draw out-of-town visitors.