Lessons from #GLIDEToronto on Culture: The Intersection of Art and Commerce

Culture arts creativity imagination Kentucky Indiana Exhange Toronto Design Exchange DX GLIDE Toronto, Day 3 was largely devoted to the arts and the important role it plays in the economy of a region. Our day started at the Design Exchange (DX), formerly the home of the Toronto Stock Exchange, a building that combined streamlined modern, art deco and stripped classicism styles. It is the only design museum and center of its kind in North America, devoted to promoting Canadian design and the role it plays in fostering economic growth.

At the DX we heard from Matthew Teitelbaum, the Director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) as well as David Whitaker, the President and CEO of Tourism Toronto. Teitelbaum spoke of the multi-million dollar expansion of the AGO and how critical it was that for the Gallery to be more than a building, but a holistic, welcoming experience. Whitaker’s remarks focused on determining what truly distinguishes your community, keeping what’s important to the customers’ priority number one, and being authentic.

Our final stop was at the Gardiner Museum where Rita Davies, the executive director of Culture for the city of Toronto and Shirley Blumberg, a founding partner of Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna, Blumberg Architects shared their perspectives on why culture matters. Davies said that cities with a lot of culture are magnets – magnets for talent and magnets for businesses looking for the best talent.  “Culture,” said Davies, “is the R & D of ideas.”

Blumberg’s firm was the leading architectural firm in 7 of the 9 most significant cultural arts venues projects in the past decade in Toronto. She talked about how the funding model for such projects had long been solely dependent on government funding and how Toronto had only recently begun to use a more American model of public / private funding efforts, but she emphasized that the private sector had to see the government step up and make a significant investment before it would consider contributing. From the Royal Conservancy of Music to the Toronto International Film Festival Lightbox and Festival Tower, it was the government who took the initiative because investing in the cultural arts was an economic development priority.

Our day ended with a presentation by Steve Wilson and Christina Ziedler. Wilson and his wife founded Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel and Ziedler has similarly restored the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, both are considered economic drivers for their region. Wilson shared his philosophy on risk which is that you cannot be risk averse and be successful. “The best opportunities are the ones that scare us the most,” said Wilson.

There are so many lessons learned from our visit to Toronto. On day 3, our key take away – the arts are not just a nice amenity to have; they are an essential component of economic prosperity. Art and Commerce intersect.

Interestingly, our first day back home, the KIX.com Team found ourselves at that intersection again in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Fine Arts Society of Bardstown Art Gallery Nelson County KentuckyAt the invitation of Kim Huston, President and CEO of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency (NCEDA), we made a stop at the Fine Arts of Bardstown Society Art Gallery.

Housed in a building constructed in 1914, what was once the post office and then the public library is now home to a co-op of 30 artists whose work is on display. Nelson County owns the building and allows the artists to use the space to show and sell their art. When we arrived, an art class was about to begin upstairs and the gallery was a showcase of local talent. And we’re happy to report, a purchase was made during our visit! What a terrific model and this is just one of many examples in our region.

What’s your favorite cultural arts attraction in our region? Let us know in the comments below so we can all benefit from the creativity that helps fuel our imaginations and our economy.