Published On: Mon, Aug 6th, 2012

CULTURE AS A PRECURSOR TO COMMERCE

Over the past few weeks, summer doldrums may have been setting in.

With the city council on break and many residents traveling, is there any news that titillates the senses and raises our temperature.

YOU BET THERE IS….

The notion that a vibrant economic climate is based in large part on an active cultural community is a base philosophy identified at all levels. The proposition that one should think globally and act locally could not be more apparent than in the last few days on both the international and local political stages.

On the international stage, Governor Romney this week while traveling in Jerusalem made the bold and accurate statement that “culture makes a difference.” The Governor was comparing the economic vitality of the State of Israel versus that of the Palestinian Authority, noting that when taken in context of his culture comment offers the insight that “…the power of culture and a few other things…” are determinative in the economic success of the nation.

Immediately, the Governor’s remarks have been labeled racist and insensitive. Taken in a bigger context, the remarks allows the exploration of similar economic disparities which can be seen in comparisons like the United States to Mexico and Chile to Ecuador.

Governor Romney unequivocally argues that culture is a key to economic success and emphasizes the power of the entrepreneurial spirit. Citing Harvard Professor David Landes’ book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, the Governor states that the economic history of the world supports the proposition that “culture makes all the difference.” I agree…

LESSONS ON THE LOCAL LEVEL….

Culture as a major contributor to economic success is apparent even within the south Palm Beach County community. Over the last few years, both Delray Beach and Boca Raton have received significant cultural grants to aid their efforts to revitalize the downtown economies.

The differences of how the two cities have implemented these programs are stark and vivid. Delray Beach is excelling and its downtown economic vitality is apparent even in these dark days of summer. Boca Raton, on the other hand, is languishing during these same summer days.

Soon after the International Cartoon Museum failed, a cultural grant was requested by civic leaders in Boca Raton to revitalize the facility as a venue available for all cultural organizations to use. This effort has resulted in the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Association, a not for profit 501 c 3 organization. The governing body overseeing this tax exempt group is made up two former city council members, the chairman of the Festival for the Art, a deputy city manager and a representative of the Mizner Park management office with no executive director or dedicated operational staff to bring the venue to its fullest potential.

This underutilized venue contains a 300 seat, fully equipped and functional black box theater, a box office, two large gathering areas and an outdoor balcony; to wit: an attractive venue for the many cultural organizations that long to provide activity and cultural content.

I challenge most any Boca Raton resident to tell me where this cultural center is never mind what activities are conducted there. Even a Google search turns up very little information about this city owned, tax payer financed venue that fails miserably in establishing culture as a precursor to economic activity.

In comparison, Delray Beach was provided a similar cultural grant to take a cold, dreary first floor location in a city garage off the main drag and create a cultural center to act as a laboratory for the advancement of arts and culture as an economic engine.

Beginning last year, the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency empowered the Creative City Collaborative, a not for profit 501 c 3 organization, to move forward with what is now known as the Arts Garage, a branded, energetic cultural performing venue. Supported by a board of directors comprised of civic leaders and a former political figure, the venue employs a full time executive director with an operational staff and loyal volunteers. The Arts Garage now offers a full fare of cultural events and performances over the course of these dark days of summer.

SO WHAT YOU SAY….

Well this past weekend is a prime example of how culture, among other things, is a contributor to the economic engine…..

My wife and I were out to dinner in Delray Beach and had tickets to the performance of Lynn Arriale, a Jazz pianist/composer. Beginning 7:30 p.m., the Arts Garage was filled to capacity with some 200 attractive high disposal income people enjoying the sounds and insights of this accomplished performer. The streets around this obscure venue were consistently active with the valet parking pace indicative of the economic impact the venue achieves.

In contrast, on this same evening, when driving past the unidentified, non-descript Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, one cannot help but see the difference. Perhaps the most striking item was that in Delray Beach, the Arts Garage was alive and active while being serviced by the valet parking operation while in Boca Raton, the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center was dark and inactive while merely being used as the valet parking service.

INCREDIBLE…..

Al Zucaro

Visit Al’s website, www.alzucaro.com and

View his internet broadcast, Citizen of the World, on WRBPiTV.com

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