Redmond one of handful of Nova Scotians on ‘Best Practices’ trip
There is a lot Parrsboro's board of trade can learn from the Berkshires of Massachusetts
© Andrew Wagstaff - Cumberlandnewsnow.com
Parrsboro project facilitator Taylor Redmond addresses the Parrsboro and District Board of Trade during its May 15 luncheon about her recent participation in a mission to the Berkshires, a New England area with a vibrant tourism industry built on arts and culture.
PARRSBORO – It may be a long way from Parrsboro to the Berkshires of Massachusetts, but not as far as you think.
The areas have many challenges and opportunities in common, according to Taylor Redmond, Parrsboro’s project facilitator, who took part in a recent mission to the mountainous New England destination area, which is vibrant in arts, culture and recreation.
“It was an amazing opportunity and really enlightening,” said Redmond, who spoke to the Parrsboro District Board of Trade during its May 15 luncheon at Black Rock Bistro. “It’s an area that has really banded together and developed, using arts and culture as the economic driver.”
Sponsored by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the Parrsboro and District Board of Trade, and the Town of Parrsboro, Redmond took part in visits to several destinations in the region, spoke with operators, and picked up ideas. Successful operations visited included the Berkshires Visitors Bureau, the Barrington Stage, Pittsfield, Mass Moca, Williamstown, the Clark Institute, Harrison Art Gallery and more.
She described each venue as “amazing,” built with strong vision by passionate people, similar to what she has seen in this area.
“Everyone who started any of the projects we looked at was told they were out of their mind,” said Redmond. “All they started with was a vision that was ‘totally unattainable’ and ‘would never work.’ There was never any money, and each location was working in a community that had experienced major economic downturn, with empty storefronts, lost jobs, population drops, all within a 2-3 hour distance from a major location. None of the situations were different from us.”
The experience drove home for her the value of arts and culture in a community, and how it may not make a lot of money directly, but drives the economy of an area by spinning off in jobs, rooms, food and gas.
Aside from the similarities she noticed, Redmond also picked up on some stark differences between what she saw there and what she sees here. The biggest one was how these projects are funded, even in other parts of Atlantic Canada.
For example, Bonavista, N.L. has received $10.5 million over the past 10 years to develop projects, mainly because it has a person “hustling and pushing” for it.
Meanwhile, in Montague, P.E.I., street sculptures have been placed on the street just like in Parrsboro, only with $13,000 from ACOA. Parrsboro did it due to the generosity of the artist.
“Our area has really dropped the ball in that respect,” said Redmond. “We need to figure out how we can become more efficient in looking for funding, and getting it.”
The proof that investing in arts and culture works was very evident during the mission, according to Redmond, who explained that one particular community saw a 75 per cent vacancy in Main Street storefronts reduced to 25 per cent in only four years.