Lynchburg Art and Culture Scene Proves to be an Economic Engine for City

Lynchburg, VA - Imagine making an investment where your return was 17-to-1. That's a great deal, and that's the return on investment for the art and culture community in Lynchburg; according to the city's economic analysis of the arts.

It's a matter of taking advantage of an untapped resource. In this case the city of Lynchburg re-purposed their amusement tax, and re-using it to fund the arts and music downtown.

"So this is Riverview's Art space, it was a shoe warehouse; many, many moons ago" said Krista Boothby, the Executive Director of the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities.

On the first Friday of February, people pack Lynchburg's art galleries, restaurants, and concert halls.

"You think about the places you want to live. Well what's happening in those best places to live? Well, it's art, it's shows, it's opera, it's visual art like this" said Boothby.

She's seen firsthand how Lynchburg's art culture has changed for the better.

"The city took very little money, $35,000 and turned it into $600,000" she said.

For the first time in 2012, the city re-purposed their amusement tax, collected when you buy a ticket for a show, or concert; and put it all back into grants for the arts and cultural district of Lynchburg's downtown.

"But there's also meals tax, lodging tax, and other sources of revenue that are derived from the out of town visitor that comes to one of our cultural events" said Lynchburg City Councilman, Turner Perrow.

Perrow was a strong supporter of re-purposing the tax. He says a vibrant arts community makes for better business.

"If you're going to the theatre downtown, then you're going to pay for a theatre ticket, you're probably going to go to dinner, maybe you do have a babysitter" he said.

And judging from the crowds, it's paying off.

"The tips you give your waitress, the salaries that anybody was paid, it all is pooled into that large number, and that's what keeps an economy going" said Boothby.

A total of 12 different organizations in the arts and cultural district received those grants. Previously, the amusement tax was just recycled into the city's general fund.