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Berkeley Springs earns arts recognition

April 19, 2005

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Berkeley Springs was voted by readers of American Style magazine as the No. 2 arts destination in the United States among small cities and towns, according to a news release.

This was the first year that locations were divided by size. In previous years, Berkeley Springs has been ranked as high as No. 12 competing against all size locations.

New Hope, Pa., was selected as the No. 1 small art city or town.

"It's quite a jump to No. 2," Jeanne Mozier, local arts promoter, said in a news release. "Plus, this year the magazine did a small feature on the town." The list and articles are in the June issue of American Style, Mozier said.

There is an upsurge in cultural tourism with travelers rating arts, heritage and cultural activities as one of the top five reasons for traveling, according to the magazine. Localities encourage cultural tourists because studies show they contribute almost twice as much to the local economy as do business travelers or family vacationers.

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"Travel Berkeley Springs has always recognized the importance of our area's reputation as an arts community," said Sally Marshall, president of the local travel group. "We are ardent supporters of all the good work MAC does in bringing people to Berkeley Springs. Their art events contribute to the well being of the tourism industry making them an invaluable partner."

This productive partnership between tourism and the arts recently earned Travel Berkeley Springs the Creative Community Spirit award at the Governor's Arts Awards gala.

"When you consider percent of population engaged in the arts either as participants or audience, Berkeley Springs probably scores higher than Santa Fe," Mozier said. "This weekend alone, the release of a short story book with 15 local writers, the opening of the annual quilt show featuring more than 40 members, and a classical concert at Coolfont are on the schedule."

"Less than a week after 'Romeo and Juliet' closed, there were a couple dozen women auditioning for a half dozen parts in 'Steel Magnolias' at the Ice House," she said. "This is arts density."

Mozier mentioned other arts activities including the summer concert series and both a spring and fall art studio tour as support for Berkeley Springs' latest honor.

Berkeley Springs is not the only town to discover that arts make for good business. According to Robert Lynch, president of American for the Arts, many cities invest heavily in cultural districts because "arts make communities better ... more beautiful, more liveable."

The American Style rating is not the first award Berkeley Springs has achieved for its arts activities. The town is one of only 17 included in all three editions of John Villani's book: The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. In 2000, MAC won a Silver Stars of Industry Award at the West Virginia Governor's Conference on Tourism for its superior efforts in building community through the arts.

According to Villani, the rich and varied art scene in Berkeley Springs is surprising since there is no college or university nearby.

"Art is routinely part of daily life here," said Mozier. "That was our goal in 1977 and here we are, a working art town and proud of it."

More than 120 working artists live in Morgan County and nearly 400 people are dues-paying members of MAC, she said.

For more information on Morgan County arts activities, visit www.macicehouse.org or call 304-258-2300.

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