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Panelists promote culture, tourism benefits to regional economy development

Cornell hosted a roundtable on regional economic development through the arts and tourism May 17 in the Biotechnology Building.

About 70 people representing upstate New York tourism and cultural organizations attended the daylong roundtable and grants workshop, presented by U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Cornell's Society for the Humanities.

Gillibrand and her staff "embrace the view that there is an economic reason for helping the arts," said Wendy Gellman '81, Gillibrand's senior counsel and senior policy adviser. "Employers seek employees who are creative thinkers, and those are most often found where there are rich cultural resources, as we have in the Southern Tier. ... Culture is a mighty tool for economic development. This is a No. 1 priority for the senator."

"New York is the East Coast's industry leader in an expanding array of cultural fields from publishing, film, fashion, television, dance, literature and architecture to libraries and museums," said Society Director Timothy Murray. "Given the promise of culture in New York state, it's important that we work with [lawmakers] to pursue aggressively and creatively the promise of partnerships between industry and the academy."

Murray said he received word that morning that the Cornell Library's Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, which he curates, was awarded a 2011 collaboration grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a long-term archiving project with the Internet art site Turbulence.org.

After a video message from Gillibrand, Gellman moderated a panel discussion on "Arts, Cultural Institutions, Historic Sites and Agri-Tourism as Engines of Economic Development." Panelists included Susan Christopherson, professor of city and regional planning, and Ellen Avril, assistant director and curator at the Johnson Museum.

Christopherson talked about her research on building the knowledge and creative economies in upstate New York, including "how universities and colleges can help small and medium-sized communities by providing space for cultural activities and assistance to artists." In addition to her research on the economic impacts of hydrofracking and natural gas drilling, she has written a recent policy brief on fostering community development, she said.

Avril gave a visual presentation on the Johnson Museum and discussed museum funding, including New York State Council on the Arts project support and federal grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts.

"These grants provide the seed funding to allow us to experiment, to innovate, to improve our collection, and also have an impact on the local economy," through goods and services purchased or staff hired, Avril said.

Panelists Sally Berry of the Corning Museum of Glass, Gregg Marshall of VisitRochester and David Sparrow of the Tompkins County Strategic Tourism Planning Board and Finger Lakes Wine Center Inc. gave their perspectives on the local economic impact of tourism and issues for small arts organizations including marketing, publicity and recruiting volunteers.

Sam Cooper, Gillibrand's director of economic development and transportation, reported on recent federal legislative action on arts and tourism, including the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Act, which will create a park commemorating Tubman in Auburn, N.Y. Gillibrand, Sen. Charles Schumer and 14 other senators sent a letter May 3 to the chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a subcommittee, encouraging continued support for the NEH and NEA by keeping 2012 funding levels at $167.5 million for each endowment. Gillibrand also co-sponsored recent legislation to aid domestic tourism.

"She is definitely a champion for the arts and will be very interested in what is going to happen in the next legislative session," Cooper said.

Gillibrand's office also assists arts and tourism organizations -- as well as small businesses, senior citizens, agricultural and clean energy initiatives -- with letters of support and other services, Gellman said.

After an afternoon grants workshop, some attendees toured cultural sites on campus including the Johnson Museum, the Carl A. Kroch Library Rare and Manuscript Collections, the A.D. White House and the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.

Media Contact

John Carberry