Using tourists to educate locals, for example. Downtown developers in the 1980s strategically looked to the Tennessee Aquarium’s success with tourists to convince locals that downtown could be fun and safe. Burch sees a huge market for art tourism targeting people who understand that Chattanooga has high quality but underpriced work by local artists. He recently hosted friends from New York who “stocked up” on art from Rachel Collins’ Gallery 301 because they were used to paying four to five times as much for similar quality work in the northeast.
Burch also talks about strategically priming the market. Rather than subsidizing artistic creation through public commissions, he said he’d rather see municipalities and foundations investing in galleries that can market a broad swath of art while educating buyers. That sounds remarkably like what GreenSpaces has done so effectively to educate local builders on green building techniques and Gaining Ground is doing for local food.
“I don’t think we’re thinking big enough here,” he said. “We have thought big as a city—the Aquarium, the 21st Century Waterfront—and the economic impact has been substantial. We could do same thing in the arts.”