Hair at geva theater in downtown Rochester: Photo by Goat Factory Media Entertainment.

From the CEO: The Arts Are on a Roll in Upstate New York

The arts are on a roll in upstate New York, which is good news for us in Westchester County. According to a recent study titled Upstate’s Creative Spark How the Arts Is Catalyzing Economic Vitality Across Upstate New York, employment in the arts and culture sector across upstate New York surged 35 percent from 2009 to 2019 – nearly 10 times the overall employment growth upstate (4 percent) and three times the growth rate of the healthcare sector (12 percent). The employment boom applied to nearly every corner of the state, including the Hudson Valley, which saw a 48 percent increase.

In addition, artists have been fueling much of the population growth in upstate communities. At a time when many upstate cities have seen little overall population growth—and when the under-65 population has been in rapid decline in most communities—the number of working artists in upstate New York increased by 26.5 percent between 2011 and 2021.  According to the study, which was published by the Rochester Community Foundation and prepared by the Center for Urban Future, “this influx of artists and homegrown talent—and the accompanying revival of art galleries, festivals, theaters, concert halls and museums—has helped reinvigorate downtown communities, drive tourism and spark the creation of new restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses.”

Similarly, Westchester and Rockland County are noticing an uptick in artists migrating from New York City, seeking more affordability. The study concludes a need for greater funding of local arts council and arts districts, which has actually been happening due to a New York State Senate insinuative that, for over two years, has pumped $10 million in grants into local art agencies like ArtsWestchester. Stephen Butler, Executive Director at CNY Arts in Syracuse, adds: “This is clearly a recognition that upstate New York has become a player in both not-for-profit art and for-profit filmmaking.”

The upstate results are impressive. There has been a striking growth in art sectors in Buffalo (59 percent), Syracuse (53.5 percent), Albany (33 percent) and Rochester (14 percent), and across regions like the Hudson Valley (48 percent), Southern Tier (36.5 percent), North Country (28.5 percent) and Capital Region (21 percent).

The first round of the new state-funded grants program has increased grantmaking in Westchester and Rockland (163 grants) and the Capital Region (143 grants). In the Hudson Valley, there appears to be a trend of audiences seeking “hyperlocal” venues – that is to say that post-Covid residents are seeking arts and culture experiences close to home.

Photo by Goat Factory Media Entertainment

About Janet Langsam

During her time at the helm of ArtsWestchester, the organization – formerly known as the Westchester Arts Council – has grown from a $1 million to a $6 million agency and has excelled at making the arts more visible, diverse and accessible for all. ArtsWestchester offers financial and marketing support to emerging arts groups, cultural institutions and grassroots activities throughout Westchester County.

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