College of Wooster students Brandon Charles ’22, Katie Harvey ’21, and Andreas Xenofontos ’22 completed a feasibility study on the Wooster Arts & Culture District for the City of Wooster through AMRE, the College’s Applied Methods and Research Experience program. Advised by Tim Freeze, Pocock Family Distinguished Visiting Assistant Professor of Music, and Brooke Krause, assistant professor of economics, the students presented their research on how the city could support the local economy while also supporting the arts and culture in the community to a number of partners on the project including the City of Wooster, Main Street Wooster, United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties, Wayne Center for the Arts, and Wooster Downtown Arts Theater.
Through conversations with members of the Wooster community and arts and culture district representatives from across the country, the research team compiled a list of development opportunities. Their findings addressed economic impact, retail and residential opportunities, annual district programming, management oversight, and COVID-19 considerations. Identifying three communities of similar size and character to Wooster as the basis for many of its recommendations, the report included information on what made the arts districts successful, how they are structured and funded, and their economic impact. All three communities saw an increase in property values due to the creation of an arts district, according to the report, by “an average net increase of $3,739,375 and an additional city property tax revenue of $38,514.” Vikki Briggs, program coordinator for AMRE, explained that the AMRE team “took all perspectives into consideration and came out with objective findings. They researched other communities and objectively looked at what the benefits would be for downtown.”
Executive director for Main Street Wooster Shannon Waller told TheBargainHunter.com: “The most impressive (result) was that locals visiting for an arts-related event spend about $23 per person, and out-of-town visitors spend $35 per person. That AMRE report is full of information and a good resource.”
Waller sees the report as a tool they’ll be able to use to solicit funding for arts projects that will help draw tourists to the Wooster community in the future. The student research recommended creating a clearly defined boundary for the arts district, as well as developing a brand and logo. Harvey, a global and international studies major at Wooster, advised in the presentation, “Using this image, logo or brand, you want to create wayfinding signs and signifiers to draw people into the arts district and make them feel that they are in an arts district and feel that creative and exciting element.”