Try to picture what Palm Beach County might look like without its museums, theaters and concert stages. Imagine the delighted sounds of children exploring the Palm Beach Zoo stripped from the air.
From Boca Ballet Theatre in the south and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in the north to the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center in the west, our nonprofit cultural organizations are critical – not only when it comes to the exceptional quality of life we enjoy but also to our economy.
“When companies are considering Palm Beach County for relocation or expansion, they ask me the same three questions,” says Verdenia C. Baker, Palm Beach County administrator. “Where will my employees live; how is the educational system; and how are the cultural activities here? Supporting an outstanding cultural industry is a matter of economic development. We need our cultural organizations to thrive so our community prospers.”
The arts engage individuals and strengthen communities. Art – and arts education – inspire creativity in the sciences and innovation in business. The stories told on canvas, in song and woven through museum galleries help students envision new worlds and extend a warm welcome to visitors.
“When people are researching where they want to live, they look at schools, hospitals and whether that community has culture,” says Andrew Kato, producing artistic director at the Maltz. “I believe that when you have great cultural destinations, tourism grows, property values increase and companies choose to invest in your area.”
Palm Beach County’s future growth is even more intimately linked to its cultural life than most communities. To enhance the ability of the area’s cultural attractions to thrill audiences, start conversations, open eyes and foster economic growth in the years ahead, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County launched the Cultural Industry Assessment earlier this year.
As part of the new initiative, the Cultural Council reached out over the summer, inviting cultural leaders to participate in a structured survey and in group discussions about the current status of the county’s cultural assets and what comes next.
“The future’s so bright you gotta wear shades!” says Lew Crampton, president and CEO of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. “Demand is increasing – more than two million people live within a one-hour drive of our location – and tourism visits are moving steadily upward with even greater numbers in store when the County Convention Center reaches its full potential after hotel space under construction comes on line.”
There’s just one problem.
“Many of us are working out of antiquated buildings and don’t have the bandwidth to make major improvements,” Crampton says. “The Cultural Industry Assessment is our entry into the countywide planning process and it assures that our needs and our plans will become an important part of the process.”
“From listening to cultural leaders across the county, we know that the cultural industry in Palm Beach County is poised for continued growth,” says Rena Blades, president and CEO of the Cultural Council. “We’re not talking about refurbishing rooms and adding exhibits – we’re looking at more than $800 million in capital expansion projects in the next five years alone.”
More square footage means more color, more excitement, more young lives touched, more evenings filled with magic and more economic opportunity. It also means more sources of funding will be required. “Collaboration between the cultural community, elected officials and business leaders will be essential when it comes to fulfilling the potential we all know is there,” Blades says.
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“When you see what has been accomplished over the past ten years,” says Kato, “it is easy to imagine what we can become in the next ten if we all work together.”
“The case for cultural facilities expansion in Palm Beach County is compelling,” Crampton says. “Our programs and facilities are an integral part of school district curricula and are loved by residents, tourists and the business community throughout the region. Our growth will enrich the quality of life for all South Florida residents, provide tourists with new reasons to visit Palm Beach County and help persuade businesses to locate here by reinforcing the image of Palm Beach County as a modern, cosmopolitan area with world-class institutions.”
We need our cultural organizations to thrive so our community prospers.”
– Verdenia C. Baker, Palm Beach County Administrator