Tap into region's culture of creativity

By Anthony Cronin
Publication: The Day

 Another "Movie Madness!" concert, another wonderful performance.

The U.S. Coast Guard Band's 15th concert of movie classics this past Sunday was a packed event, as well it should have been. And the price? The band concerts are always free, and every time I attend they're impressive, and enjoyable, performances.
Sitting in the fully restored Leamy Concert Hall - impressive acoustics, I might add - listening to themes ranging from "Harry Potter" to "Batman" to the classics once sung by Judy Garland, I couldn't help but think of all the arts and cultural attractions across southeastern Connecticut - and their vital importance to this region's economic and business interests.
The night before the Coast Guard's performance, the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, another local treasure, performed a world premiere symphony - at the Garde Arts Center in New London.
And there's so much more. The dance troupes at Connecticut College, the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, the Spirit of Broadway, the performances at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino entertainment complexes.
Having a vibrant arts culture is essential for a region's quality of life. For business, it's an important tool for recruiting, and for keeping, the best and the brightest.
Major employers in this region can point to a symphony, a regional arts center, regional community theater and museums like the Florence Griswold and Lyman Allyn, and the many galleries.
Even the flourishing arts-and-culture scenes in New Haven, Providence, New York City and Boston are only a car's drive away.
I do believe that a creative economy can foster "outside the box" thinking, and that's essential in today's global business world. In fact, Connecticut's creative economy is estimated to be a nearly $625 million enterprise that employs 10,000 people, according to the New England Foundation for the Arts.
The group estimates that New England-wide, the creative economy totals almost $4 billion. In Connecticut, nonprofit arts-and-cultural groups have grown by 15 percent from 2002 to 2009 and their spending grew by 15 percent during that same period, while employment jumped 21 percent.
Besides the dollar investments made by arts-and-cultural institutions - from their payrolls, to their leases, vendors and utilities - these institutions also tend to be stable, reliable industries, an important component for any regional economy.
In its comprehensive study of New England's creative economy this past fall, the New England Foundation for the Arts featured the Garde Arts Center on its cover. In fact, this New London hallmark was one of the few cultural institutions that were included inside the detailed report. The Boston-based foundation heralded the Garde for creating an "arts block" in downtown New London and for serving as a catalyst for downtown revitalization.
And you can't mention the arts scene in this region without mentioning the impressive business support. Look at a local playbill and you'll find numerous businesses, large and small, from big utilities to local law firms, which are longtime supporters of the arts.
That relationship between business and the arts is essential to preserving the quality of life that many of us have come to expect, and enjoy, here in southeastern Connecticut.
Anthony Cronin is The Day's business editor.