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Report: Arts And Culture Generate $80 Million Annually In Saratoga County

Lucas Willard

Officials have a better understanding of the creative economy in Saratoga County, thanks to a new report that shows the region’s arts and cultural attractions have a significant economic impact.

The arts and cultural organizations in Saratoga County generate more than $80 million annually. That’s according to the new Saratoga County Cultural Index released by the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership.

Using data gathered from 2016, the Index looks at figures from two dozen arts and cultural organizations. After crunching the numbers, it was determined the organizations directly employ more than 1,600 people and serve more than 6 million patrons annually.

At a panel discussion and presentation in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, leaders from local organizations were asked to share their thoughts on the creative economy.

When Saratoga County is counted as part of the greater Capital Region, the area’s creative economy — which includes economic sectors beyond arts and culture —  ranks nationally.

Maureen Sager of the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy said the number of creative freelancers in the region rivals metropolitan areas across the country.

“And in fact, the metropolitan statistical area of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, has the sixth-highest concentration of freelance and self-employed artists in the United States of America,” said Sager.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center President Elizabeth Sobol moved to the area in the fall of 2016. Prior to taking the job, while living in Miami, she said she didn’t know much about Saratoga Springs. But visiting downtown, she realized it was something special.

But it’s that getting-the-word-out that Sobol thinks needs to be worked on. By comparison, she mentioned the reputation and marketing used just over the Massachusetts border.

She also stressed the importance of fostering innovation in the arts.

“You know, the Berkshires, if you think about MASS MoCA, it’s all about the creation and cultivation and that’s what creates a sense of excitement and puts a spotlight on the region as a cultural powerhouse,” said Sobol.

While SPAC’s calendar draws thousands during the spring and summer months, there is also a push to bring more year-round entertainment to Saratoga Springs.

Renovations are underway at Universal Preservation Hall, a former church transforming into an event space on Washington Street. Working with Proctors, UPH’s Teddy Foster says the venue is seeking to bring programming that will extend the busiest months in the Spa City.

“We’re going to be programming on the off-seasons, on the shoulder seasons to racing. Because racing is not going away, it’s sitting in the same car as we are. So, you know, we’ve go to deal with it some way. And I just think it’s a huge economic opportunity for us, for downtown, and for us to grow.”

Joel Reed, Executive Director of Saratoga Arts, had a simple message for a region that draws its strength from artists large and small: shop local.

“Enjoy the world-class presentations and performances and touring companies, and then, but, on your way there stop off at a local gallery and buy work by your neighbor. And then afterwards, go to a coffee shop and hear a local musician play while you’re having dessert.”

For more information visit: http://saratogapartnership.org/

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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