Written and photographed by Carrie Beth Wallace
On Tuesday, February 5, several thousand people gathered in Atlanta at the Capitol Building for Georgia Arts Day. The annual event celebrates the previous year's tourism and arts revenue, and provides an opportunity for arts advocates from around the state to meet with their respective government representatives to discuss upcoming matters in arts legislation.
Creative industries provide roughly 140,000 jobs in our state, and revenue from 2017 totaled $37 billion dollars. Thirty-seven billion dollars. So, what does this mean? According to the Georgia Arts Network's 2018 report, "Arts & culture drive the economy and the future of Georgia."
This year for Georgia Arts Day, Visit Columbus Georgia organized a group of local arts advocates from the Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance to represent Columbus at the Capitol. Over thirty leaders in Columbus' arts organizations made it to Atlanta for the occasion and represented fifteen local organizations.
Georgia Arts Day opened with the presentation of a $3.2 billion dollar check from state and local revenues for tourism to the Georgia Department of Revenue. Before the presentation, Pat Wilson, Executive Commissioner of Economic Development, spoke on the importance of tourism, arts and culture in Georgia.
"Georgia tourism is up 4%," said Wilson. "The check you are about to see presented here today totals $3.2 billion dollars from tourism alone. Today we honor those who have made this possible. These individuals working in tourism and the arts are the front porch of Georgia to our visitors. They are working tirelessly to welcome visitors and sending them off to enjoy the best of our state: the arts and our industries."
Georgia had 107.7 million visitors last year, and was just named one of Travel + Leisure's top places to travel. It was the only state in the nation named.
"Georgia is on the world's mind now," said Wilson. "We are the number one state in the country for business, and we've been number one for business for the last six years. Many artists are also entrepreneurs who are making Georgia what it is today. For that, we thank you."
After Wilson's speech, Governor Brian Kemp addressed the crowd and added his thanks to the arts advocates and legislators in attendance. He then accepted the check from Wilson and posed for several photographs with all of the state and local dignitaries present.
Members of Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance spent the rest of the day observing legislation and meeting with various branches of Georgia.org to discuss potential ways for the arts and tourism to continue to be elevated in Columbus.
To close the day, Columbus' arts leaders met with Representative Calvin Smyre and Senator Ed Harbison in a private meeting. Both men remarked on how impressed they were with the number of arts advocates who had traveled from Columbus to show their support of the arts that day. Representative Smyre was "shocked at the number of people in the room" and made an effort to express his thanks to each individual for their support of the arts in Columbus.
Cameron Bean, Chairman of Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance, was thrilled with our city's presence at Georgia Arts Day. "When it comes to the arts, it's "all for one and one for all!" and (Columbus) embodied the spirit of that adage yesterday." ◼︎
Looking to get involved in the arts in our community? Here's a list of all of the organizations present yesterday. Reach out and ask how you can help them serve our community in 2019!
Visit Columbus Georgia
Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance
Muscogee Country School District
Columbus Symphony Orchestra
The Columbus Museum
Port Columbus Naval Museum
National Infantry Museum
RiverCenter for the Performing Arts
Chattahoochee Valley Library Association
Springer Opera House
Columbus State University
Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus
Wolf & Clover
Sherlock Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre
Young Art Patrons