The arts make Elizabethton more attractive, vibrant

Published 9:38 am Monday, March 25, 2019

Next Saturday will be a special day in Elizabethton, when an art walk will be held in the downtown. Visitors to downtown can stroll Elk Avenue, enjoy some live music, meet local artists, and shop local businesses. The art walk will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., with a youth art walk from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and an Art Walk Celebration Party at the Coffee Company from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
This will be the fourth art walk for downtown. It will be a fun time as stores and restaurants will be open late. It will also give local artists an opportunity to showcase their talents.
Showcasing the arts in Elizabethton has been very productive and is helping re-energize the downtown.
Small towns such as Elizabethton all are asking the same question: How can we attract and retain profitable businesses and talented people? A key component of such efforts — and one that’s often mislabeled an “amenity” — is arts and culture.
Creative businesses, such as the Blue Ridge Arts Studio, the Bonnie Kate Theater, Watts Dance Studio, and the Coffee Company, play a huge part in our local economy.
However, the value of the arts extends beyond the direct economic impact. It’s what attaches people to their communities. Sure, we live and work here, and for many of us, our roots go deep. Our town is unique in many ways. Not many towns can boast of having a covered bridge located in town or having a river running through town. We have many entertainment and social offerings, such as fishing, rafting and kayaking, several parks to spend an afternoon at, unique restaurants to eat at, and some inviting shops in the downtown, which draw visitors from elsewhere.
Arts and entertainment along with good food have a way of drawing people to the downtown. The key is to treat the arts as an essential part of the city’s identity. We can use what we have to promote the arts — such as entertainment in the Covered Bridge Park at lunchtime on a Friday with a band and box lunch or a couple of food trucks; an art walk in the park. Such events bring people together, spark community pride, and create a more vibrant place.
Think about it, Elizabethton has little else on which to rely economically. It doesn’t have the retail engines of a mall. Nor does it have the manufacturing base that it once had. What it does have is an active downtown and a talented community of artists. It is a community filled with adventure — hiking, baseball in the summer, an inviting golf course, a TVA lake, two state parks, an outdoor drama, and much history, which we need to capitalize on.
While some of the initiatives currently underway may benefit cultural tourism, most of the efforts seem to be based on an understanding of the intrinsic value of the arts in the life of any community and the sense of belonging that anchors people to a place. Elizabethton leaders should want people to see art not as something you hang on your wall, but as something that makes you human, helps you understand issues and solve problems.
We have some creative people in our community, who want to make art a part of our downtown, who want to make it an inviting and fun place to visit. We applaud them for their efforts and for stepping up to enrich our lives with their talents.
Small can be beautiful when we stop looking at what we don’t have and zero in on what we do have, and that is a lot of creative people, who do a lot of beautiful things.

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