Bedford, a place where art is thriving

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By Wynn Creasy

    I am writing to you on behalf of the many people in Bedford who love the thriving arts community that is here.
    In the 40-odd years since I left Bedford to pursue a career in the arts, and my recent return, so much has changed here. We are so lucky to have a community of so many gifted artists that contribute a great deal to the economy of our small town.
    When you walk downtown Bedford, it is easy to see from the empty store fronts and the run-down hobby shops that the town is in the process of redesigning itself to try and be more attractive to people in the area. Getting people to come into downtown for any reason and to invest their money into growing a viable economy takes something they want, and something they appreciate enough to be willing to make a difference. The arts community in Bedford is one such thing.  
    According to Arts & Economic Prosperity Research, nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity during 2015 alone—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments (a yield well beyond their collective $5 billion in arts allocations).
    By every measure, the results are impressive. This study puts to rest a misconception that communities support arts and culture at the expense of local economic development. In fact, communities are investing in an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism. This study shows conclusively that, locally as well as nationally, the arts mean business!
    One thing we need locally to do now is to save the Concert Hall at the Bedford Middle School at Longwood and Route 43 ( Peaks Street.) With the eventual development of the property of the old middle school, it is very likely that this gem of a concert hall will be overlooked and destroyed in the name of progress.
    There is no place else in Bedford where one can hear quality music. Bedford is the smallest per capita town or city to have its own quality orchestra. Quite an achievement! To lose the only place for it to perform because of a lack of understanding of the importance of that building and that hall would be a shame. 
    Like many people here I grew up and went to the middle school.  I remember Old Yellow fondly as well. I would love to see someone come in and develop the property in ways that will attract more people to Bedford: A luxury hotel? A Performance Center? An Economic Development Community for empowering entrepreneurs in the downtown area?
    There is room for all of these things there. But please, let’s remember that the arts are one of the driving forces behind the economy of Downtown Bedford now and keep it possible for them to continue to thrive here as we find other viable means for growth in the area that help everyone in the community to thrive and prosper!