The links between art and business extend back through the centuries. Wealthy individuals have always sponsored and supported artists from da Vinci to Michelangelo to Matisse, Picasso and many Australian artists such as Fred Williams and David Larwill.
Indeed, one of Launceston's significant features is BOLT, the huge 48-metre-long sculpture at the entrance to the University of Tasmania building at Inveresk, which was a collaboration between artist David Hamilton and businesses back in 2006 to mark the 'It's About Us' celebrations.
But more than that, art, especially art that creates discussion, also drives business. The MONA experience in Hobart is testament to that.
While much of the collection at MONA is not for everyone's tastes, more than 300,000 people visit every year, spending plenty of money while they are here. Canberra captures significant art tourists and on a recent trip to Melbourne, the internationally-significant 16-hectare sculpture park McClelland, at Langwarrin, was constantly full of people interacting with more than 100 outdoor sculptures.
In Launceston, our performing arts sector is a significant generator of economic activity in the city. The producers of the upcoming Mamma Mia show are forecasting around 12,000 people to see the show. Every night the show is on, many hundreds of theatre-goers spend significant amounts of money before and after the show having dinner, drinks and enjoying great hospitality. That in itself is a huge boost to the city, especially as this is a show with home-grown talent on stage and behind the scenes.
But this city can do more. Hobart leads the way through a vibrant Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery space with more than 400,000 visitors last year as well as the many private and artist-run galleries in and around the city. Here in Launceston Design Tasmania is brilliant as is QVMAG, which is home to an internationally significant collection of art and artefacts, but our streets and parks are essentially barren of artistic cultural experience. Experience the world over shows vibrant cities are full of art and culture and that they reap the economic rewards.
If Launceston truly aspires to be one of the great regional cities of the world, we should fill our streets with trees, sculptures and celebrate the creativity clearly present here. Our community and our economy will be the long-term and overwhelming beneficiaries.
- Neil Grose is the chief executive of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce.