Study Reveals Impact of Arts on Pittsfield

Jun 27, 2012

Over the past 5 years, Pittsfield has had several economic investments in the arts. As WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, a new study details the financial impact on the city…

 The study was conducted by American’s for the Arts – a national non-profit that advocates for advancing arts and cultural programs.  The Arts & Economic Prosperity IV economic study looked at 182 different communities across the country over a five-year period, Pittsfield was the only in Massachusetts to participate.

Five years ago, the study looked at Pittsfield when the city was in the beginnings of its major investments in the arts, spearheaded by previous Mayor Jim Ruberto. At the time Pittsfield had just created it’s office of Cultural Development. Meghan Whilden, the city’s current cultural Director, says the numbers show significant positive growth.

Between FY 2005 and FY 2010, Pittsfield added 231 new fulltime jobs related to the arts, increased arts & cultural event attendance by 169%, and the city’s growth outpaced the majority of communities in the study – whose average economic activity in arts declined in the past five years. Meghan Whilden says the returns on investment are huge.

Current Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi said that the city’s arts investments have proved a vital strategy in economic development and....  

Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Supranowicz said the investment in attractions such as the revitalization of the Colonial Theater and relocation of Barrington Stage are not just having a hand in attracting patrons to restaurants and seasonal businesses. Supranowicz mentioned the impact those employed by the arts have on the seasonal housing market.  

In the past five years, Meghan Whilden estimated that over 50 new restaurants and shops have opened downtown. Earlier this year, the State of Massachusetts designated Pittsfield’s downtown as a certified Cultural District for its preservation of historical buildings and investments in the arts. Also this year, the city began its First Fridays Artwalks, joining the popular Third Thursdays downtown.