In 2004, Mitch Landrieu, then lieutenant governor, launched the Cultural Economy initiative in Louisiana.
“Driving the movement is Louisiana’s deeply rooted authentic culture,” said George Swift, president/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.
Swift said the aim of the initiative is to improve the lives of Louisiana residents and create jobs through Louisiana’s music, food, film, architecture, art and other cultural industries.
The alliance, the city of Lake Charles, the Arts and Humanities Council and the Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau will come together Thursday to host the symposium “The Business of Art: Developing Cultural Economies.”
The event will be 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Contraband Room at the Civic Center. Admission is $10, lunch included.
“This is an effort to target the cultural segment and diversify our economy,” Swift said. “The aim of the symposium is to connect the business community with the arts community and to get people talking about ways to weave local creative economy workers into their businesses.
“Businesses that display local art in their reception areas and host events featuring local artists and performers breathe a new energy into the community and their clientele.”
Since the most recent study in 2010, Swift said he has noticed 148,500 people in Louisiana’s workforce are cultural economy workers — or 7 percent of the state’s workforce.
“Investing in our cultural economy gives our economy a boost and has shown real results statewide and locally in our communities,” Swift said. “Southwest Louisiana and Lake Charles are wise to have such an active interest in the movement.”
He said the city of Lake Charles has already invested millions in public spaces such as parks, the boardwalk and Ryan Street, giving downtown and the lakefront a much needed boost of energy.
“As further examples, Sulphur and DeRidder have also made investments in parks and common areas,” he said.
Symposium attendees will hear remarks from keynote speaker Malcolm White, executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. Swift said White is a dynamic personality and speaker and an accomplished businessman.
“Following Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, he played an instrumental role in the cultural rebuilding of the Gulf Coast communities by creating and composing new possibilities for artists and arts institutions in Mississippi’s lower six counties,” Swift said.
Other speakers will be Pam Breaux, assistant secretary with the state’s Office of Cultural Development, and Mayor Randy Roach.
Swift said he looks forward to a day brimming with energy and ideas from the community fueled by stories and experience from the featured speakers and panelists.