May 28, 2024
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T.O. culture chief says arts are a vital economic driver


Tapping the region’s economic potential means developing better relationships between businesses and arts organizations, said Barry McComb, cultural affairs director for the city of Thousand Oaks.

Speaking at California Lutheran University’s kickoff for its Corporate Leaders Breakfast series, McComb said rather than looking at business and the arts sectors as separate interests, the right path forward was to consider that “the arts mean business.”

He added that the “creative sector is a measurable part of the economy” and drew from examples in Detroit and elsewhere where he said that the arts can drive economic recovery, making them “worthy of support in difficult times.”

Creative industries such as television, film and architecture in addition to music and theater, produce about $135 billion in U.S. expenditures and employ about 4.1 million, mainly in the private sector, he said.

As a driver for growth in the 21st century, he said, the creative industries are important because they are net export businesses producing a consistent trade surplus.

Closer to home, McComb cited musician Colbie Caillat, photographer Joseph Sohm and writer Laura Levine as three examples of Ventura County artists whose work is exported worldwide.

When it comes to tourism, he said the arts are a “cornerstone” and cited data that suggests about 100,000 of the 300,000 annual visitors to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza are from out of town. Follow-on spending also helps local merchants. National statistics indicate about $24.60 in additional spending accompanies every ticket purchased for a concert or theater event.

“Every great community is defined by its arts,” McComb said. Among the enhancements to Conejo Valley venues, he added, is a remodel of the public space at the Kavli Theater at the Civic Arts Plaza.

In addition to being opportunities for companies to showcase their brands via sponsorship, he said the arts are a valuable tool for employee engagement. “Engagement in the arts fosters critical thinking and team building,” he said.

Noting that the crowd listening to him speak at the Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center was a sell-out with standing room only, he said the arts organizations he works with would be very pleased with the turnout.