Joan Fitzgerald, Shelley Kimelberg
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. Law, Policy, and Society Program.
arts, community, culture, development, economics, nonprofit
Law and Society
Cities and towns currently face a difficult challenge: residents demand improved services while local tax revenues and state aid have declined in a weak economy. To address this problem, local leaders attempt to design effective economic development policies that leverage unique community strengths. Recently, the idea that the cultural industries can play an important role in local economic development has taken hold in many communities around the country. However, the current literature - while filled with anecdotal indications of success - offers little empirical evidence to indicate where cultural economic development policies can be effective or practical information to assist local officials and other community leaders in implementing and sustaining an effective policy.
This exploratory qualitative study examines the process through which three mid-sized Massachusetts' municipalities - Barnstable, Gloucester and Fitchburg - established and implemented cultural economic development policies using funding provided by the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Adams Arts program for the Creative Economy. Three questions were explored: 1) why were cultural economic development policies enacted in Barnstable (Hyannis), Gloucester, and Fitchburg; 2) What elements contributed to the development and implementation of the cultural economic development policies in each of the case study communities; and 3) Were these policies successful, as determined by respondent perception or other measures, in increasing economic development in each community? To answer these questions, data from nineteen interviews with local leaders was collected and analyzed.
The research reveals several factors were present in each community that enabled the development and implementation of a cultural economic development policy. These factors include: a significant number of creative assets; a small core of dedicated, informed, well-connected local leaders; sustained funding and technical support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council; the presence of an effective intermediary organization; a strong partnership between local leaders in the public, nonprofit, and (occasionally) private sector; and the participation of local government. The success of these policies was mixed. While leaders in each community claimed they were successful (several quality of life goals appear to have been achieved and Barnstable measured some economic growth), the lack of systematic evaluation procedures made these assertions difficult to verify. While these policies have been in effect for five years or less and are sustained by fairly low levels of funding, the existing data indicate these communities have not achieved their stated economic development goals.
Richard G. Maloney, Jr.
Maloney, Richard G. Jr., "Cultural economic development in three Massachusetts communities: policy process and impact" (2010). Law, Policy, and Society Dissertations. Paper 25. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20002088
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