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We are counting on the arts in Oxford

By Wayne Andrews

Lafayette County secured a national distinction at the start of this year.

Americans for the Arts selected Lafayette County to represent Mississippi as part of a national economic impact study, which will survey 300 communities across the county.

Americans for the Arts produces a national study that tracks the impact local arts and cultural organizations have in their communities. Lafayette County will be reflective of the entire state of Mississippi as our community was the only community selected to take part.

Naturally our thoughts turn to the tourists that attend festivals and the revenue generated from hotel rooms, dining out and gifts purchased to commemorate the experience. The core of the work will be capturing information about residents and visitors that attend arts and cultural events large and small.

The few thousand visitors that attend Fiber Art Festival or the few hundred that attended the Mississippi Quilters Guild retreat in January are just as important as the 60,000 that will attend Double Decker. Because it paints a picture of the entire year. Every day visitors come to our community inspired by our arts and cultural elements.

The last national survey was able to measure that more people attended art events during the year than sporting events. You can see how that is possible in a community like ours which has numerous workshops and conferences — almost one a week.

There is a secondary measurement that the survey will focus upon. That is the direct impact the organizations have in their home communities.  Each of these organizations from the Piecemakers Quilt Guild, which hosted the Mississippi Quilters Association meeting to annual Oxford Film Festival, makes an impact on our community.

The funds raised by the organizations are spent in the community buying services such as catering, printing, advertising or rent on spaces to host events. The numerous art events, conferences and festivals directly impact our economy creating jobs. That is why the Arts Council working with Visit Oxford, RSVP and Volunteer Oxford is reaching out to arts and cultural organizations.

The survey process not only wants to find out about the visitors to events, but also about the diverse organizations in our community. As an example, the Historic Properties Commission, which manages the Burns Belfry, Lamar House and Cedar Oaks, raises and invests funds to attract visitors, hosts programs and creates exhibits. The Conference for the Book, Film Festival, Thacker Mountain and Juneteenth, in large and small ways, all contribute to our community.

If you are part of an organization that presents an art or cultural program this survey project seeks to capture the economic impact local organizations contribute to the community. To be included in the survey, contact Meghan Gallagher, the VISTA staff member with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, who is coordinating this project. To include your organization in the study, call 662-236-6429 or email yacvista@gmail.com

Wayne Andrews is executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and can be reached at
yacdirector@gmail.com.