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Hagerstown most logical place in Washington County for arts, entertainment district

Study, paid for by local arts organizations, cost $22,000

October 09, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Board of Commissioners met in a joint session Tuesday to hear the results of a feasibility study recently completed that examines the current arts and entertainment community in the city and county.

Economist Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group, which administered the study, said that Hagerstown stands as the most logical point to establish the hub of the local arts and entertainment scene since it already has the needed infrastructure.

A task force of local arts organization representatives recently was formed to provide information and help facilitate the study, which looked at ways to improve opportunities and grow the arts community.

The $22,000 study was paid for by local arts organizations, and came at no cost to the city or county, officials said.

In his presentation, Basu recommended that the city and county create a community arts commission that would coordinate efforts of individual arts groups as well as look into create an arts incubator to attract new artists to the city.

The study also looked at the current demographics of the city compared to what is typical in a vibrant arts community, determining that Hagerstown’s overall average education and income levels lacked in those areas, Basu said.

Rejuvenating the local retail environment, improving marketing, targeting visitors with higher disposable income and active involvement of local government are also important factors, Basu said.

City Councilman Bill Breichner said the study provided a lot of good information about the current state of the arts, entertainment and education in the city and county, and creating an arts commission to oversee it all would be a step in the right direction.

“I think what’s been presented in this case would really help that problem out, and getting coordinated and making (the arts) a more viable community asset,” he said.

One of the best ways to garner more interest from people outside the area, such possible investors, is through the use of social media, Basu said.

With the study completed, James Miller, chairman of the Arts, Education and Entertainment Task Force, said the group would take the information and determine what their next step will be and report back to city and county officials.

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