LITTLE ROCK — The Delta Regional Authority on Wednesday announced the creation of an initiative aimed at enhancing economic development and quality of life through the Delta’s arts and culture sectors.
The DRA, a federal-private partnership that promotes economic development in the Delta region, said it is teaming up with leading national arts and government organizations to launch the Delta Creative Placemaking Initiative.
The DRA said it will sponsor a series of workshops in June and July, including one in Arkansas, to educate local elected officials, development districts, economic development organizations and other decision makers about the advantages of supporting the creative and cultural economies and how to do so through regional collaboration and strategic planning.
The Arkansas workshop will be held June 29-30 in Wilson in Mississippi County.
Local government entities, in partnership with at least one nonprofit organization, can submit applications for up to $30,000 in seed money. Successful applicants also will receive up to 50 hours of coaching, mentoring and technical assistance for projects in their communities.
The DRA is contributing nearly $460,000 to the initiative, according to Federal Co-chairman Chris Masingill.
“With the launch of this initiative, DRA will address the growing importance of quality of place and quality of life in business retention, recruitment and attraction and in resident retention and attraction,” Masingill said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.
Jaime Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, one of the organizations partnering with the DRA for the initiative, said not every community has a major hospital or a major university, but every community has people who sing or dance or tell stories.
“Artists are the one asset that is already in every community,” Bennett said.
Masingill said that according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, the arts and cultural sectors contributed more than $729 billion, or 4.2 percent, to the U.S. economy in 2014.
Between 1998 and 2014, the contribution of arts and culture to the nation’s gross domestic product grew by more than 35 percent, he said, adding that in 2014 spending on arts and cultural goods and services reached $1.1 trillion and employment increased by 3.8 percent to support more than 1 million jobs in core arts and cultural production industries.
In Arkansas alone, employment in arts and culture grew by 2 percent in 2014, accounting for about 35,000 jobs in the state and about 3 percent of statewide employment, Masingill said.
More information about the initiative, including directions for applying for seed money, is available at www.dra.gov/creativeplacemaking.