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A Regional Cultural Co-op?

December 13, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
"Report: Arts, culture add $500 billion to nation's GDP" was the title to an Associated Press article by Brett Zongker published in the Lifestyle News section of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Arts and culture are becoming big business, so much so that the government "will release the first-ever estimates of the creative sector's contribution to the U.S. gross domestic product..." according to the article.

One needs to keep in mind this includes "Hollywood, the advertising industry, cable TV production, broadcasting, publishing, performing arts and other areas."

Here is what is interesting: "By comparison, the arts and culture sector outpaced the U.S. travel and tourism industry..."

As I blogged recently, this compliments the growth of travel related to culture, culinary and wellness interests.

Is it time to consider a regional culture "co-op" that brings many of our small businesses and non-profits together in the "creative industry" to take advantage of these trends?

There are many fine efforts going on in our various arts and culture disciplines with the fledgling Adirondack Wellness Network, Saranac Lake Art Works, Historic Saranac Lake, the Lake Placid arts scene and other organizations in Tupper Lake and throughout the region. There are also various performing art groups and then there is our culinary arts as well.

Are there some potential issues for us to overcome to take more advantage of these trends?

Size of the Players

We have well-placed infrastructure for outdoor winter activities. Non-weather dependent activities for example in the arts, wellness and culinary are typically headed by very small businesses. By themselves it can be a challenge to develop the resources and the facilities to promote destination activities.


Not all wellness or arts activities depend on tourism. Local residents, second homes can be a big part of their business and they are perhaps not as interested in becoming a destination.

A further issue may be what exactly is an “arts” business? Is it just the fine arts? Where does wellness or the culinary arts fit in? Who are the cultural entities or Eco?

A Regional Cultural Co-op?

If we are going to further create “no-weather” destination activities do we need to work together especially if many of us in the arts, culture and culinary industries that are growing so fast - are so small?

What About Organizations?

Many of the organizations that support the arts are also small and under-resourced entities. Most are volunteer driven. Is there a way to pool these resources together as well? They seem to share common issues with limited marketing dollars and staffing. They sometimes struggle with coordination of events and are there sufficient resources to help them grow their business?

Just as important, there is a window of opportunity to take advantage of the “new traveler.” These aren’t just your typical tourists anymore. “Mindful” and “learning” vacations, something that is connected locally and have meaning to your entire well-being of body and soul are changing “typical tourist behavior.”

Real Sharing?

Is it time to bring the larger cultural community together? Specifically should we consider:

• Is there more we can take advantage of with the new traveler trends in cultural, culinary and wellness arena? • Can we further ourselves as a non-weather destination? • Should we pool our resources related to marketing, event coordination and administration?

We have a slew of activities going on already. Perhaps the biggest challenge is “packaging” what we are already doing.

Old Stereotypes?

Sometime all of this becomes so complicated we forget that simple strategies can make a big difference. For example one uniform regional activity calendar, helpful on-line visitor planning guides, simply talking to each other to coordinate and communicate.

Is there a bigger opportunity here though and does it begin with throwing away old stereotypes? Do we need to recognize that today’s traveler may be looking for is not only a good trail but a diverse, locally rooted experience for body and soul?

We are in an excellent position to have our cake and eat it too. Do we need to bring the larger cultural industry with so many fine but small groups together to take greater advantage of these new opportunities and further enhance our role as as destination for unique culture - where you can ski?



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