Hendersonville may soon be home to a major outdoor art festival. On Nov 14, Hendersonville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved an $86,615 spending measure for a major festival that will take place May 11-12, 2024 at Sanders Ferry Park. The aldermen voted 11 to 1 to approve the ordinance on its first reading. A second reading is scheduled for Nov. 28.
The Hendersonville Arts Council, the city agency spearheading the festival, has contracted with Nashville’s Good Neighbor Festivals to produce the new event, called “Hendersonville Art Festival: The Festival by the Lake.” A veteran festival management company, Good Neighbor Festivals is perhaps best known for producing such events as East Nashville’s Tomato Art Festival and Artville, staged for years at Centennial Park under the name American Artisan Festival.
Jack Davis, founder of Good Neighbor Festivals, said his company will put out a national call for artists and artisans to participate in the Hendersonville Festival. Davis anticipates that the Hendersonville Festival, like the American Artisan Fest, will showcase and sell the works of more than 100 local and national artists.
“I think artists from around the country will be very interested in participating in the Hendersonville festival,” Davis said following BOMA’s vote on Nov. 14. “Unlike downtown Nashville, it’s much cheaper to get hotel rooms in Sumner County, and it’s much easier to get around and park. That’s going to be appealing to all of our vendors.”
Members of BOMA likewise seemed confident that the Hendersonville Festival would prove successful. Both Rene Shepherd, the Arts Council chairman, and Alderman Rachel Collins (Ward 5), BOMA’s arts liaison, indicated that festival sponsorships and other revenues would likely offset the city’s expenditure, making it revenue neutral. Any surplus funds from the festival would support the Arts Council in its mission to promote the arts in Hendersonville.
BOMA’s optimism about the proposed festival’s finances would be seem to be well-founded. That’s because Sumner County’s creative community proved to be a true economic engine in 2022, according to the results of a new study.
Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), an economic and social impact study by the national arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts, found that arts and cultural organizations and their audiences generated $9,802,681 in economic activity in Sumner County during 2022. That figure includes $3.1 million in direct local spending by the arts organizations themselves, along with an additional $6.7 million in event-related expenditures by their audiences. A new arts festival, therefore, would likely find an eager audience.
Americans for the Arts prepared its economic report on Sumner County in collaboration with the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, which served as the national’s organization’s community research partner. An additional 21 arts and cultural organizations in Sumner County participated in the research by completing surveys about their economic activity.
Greg Wilson, artistic director of Actors Point Theatre Company, was pleasantly surprised by the survey’s results.
“When I first saw the survey, I felt like, wow, this is truly amazing,” Wilson says. “The survey will definitely make it easier for us in Sumner County to sell the arts. It’s one thing for me to tell the story about how good the arts are in Sumner County. But now we have independent proof that the arts are really having a meaningful impact.”
Among the survey’s major findings:
• Arts and cultural organizations in Sumner County supported 176 jobs, provided $8.3 million in personal income to residents, and generated $2.9 million in local, state and federal tax revenue.
• Attendees of arts and cultural events in Sumner County spent on average $34.73 per person and per event above the cost of admission.
• Arts and culture events enhanced the tourist economy, with 30.1 percent of attendees at local events traveling from other jurisdictions.
• More than 90 percent of attendees in Sumner County say their arts organizations inspire a sense of community pride.
Sumner County was not alone in benefiting from the arts, the study found. Nationally, the arts and cultural sector generated $151.7 billion in economic activity in 2022, with arts organizations spending $73.3 billion and their audiences contributing an additional $78.4 billion in event-related expenditures. Those outlays supported 2.6 million jobs and produced $29.1 billion in tax revenue.
Beyond economics, the study found that the arts are a fundamental component of livable communities – beautifying cities and towns, bringing joy to residents, and celebrating diverse cultural expressions and traditions. It powers creative communities where people want to live and work, where entrepreneurs and innovation thrive, and where businesses and nighttime economies flourish. In all, those shared cultural experiences strengthened our sense of collective belonging.
“This study from Americans for the Arts is truly wonderful, because it provides hard evidence of something we’ve long known,” says Cheryl Strichik, executive director of Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center. “The arts add value to our community, both aesthetically and economically. It is a beautiful thing.”