SPECIAL REPORT: GREENVILLE, S.C.’S VIBRANT ARTS SCENE

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Greenville, South Carolina, is an up-and-coming city doing just about everything right. The city of around 70,000 people reinvented itself, its downtown and its economy.

And Tuscaloosa city leaders say Tuscaloosa and Greenville have a lot in common.

So political and business leaders from across Tuscaloosa County spent some time there last week to see if they could uncover the secret of Greenville’s success in the arts.

A big part of their success? A $200 million budget each year.

The Metropolitan Arts Council in Greenville plays a major role in the economic development and urban revitalization and quality of life.

“It’s really phenomenal,” said Alan Ethridge with the Metropolitan Arts Council. “Because you can see the Peace Center with the performing arts, which has just been open since 1990, probably has a economic impact of $30 million a year, so its been a phenomenal phenomenal asset to the landscape of Greenville.”

With a city of about 66,000 people, the cultural amenities are diverse, Ethridge said. The Greenville County Museum of Arts is always free, there’s a symphonic orchestra, four theaters, a choral group and a yearly arts festival that ranks within the top-10 festivals in the country, he said.

Not to mention, the arts are taken into classrooms, bringing high-quality arts education to students.

But the biggest arts draw is the Peace Center, a 2,100-seat concert hall with an amphitheater.

Even though Ethridge said the city of Greenville will never compete with New York City, for a city of its size, unexpected tourists play a major role.

It’s all thanks to MAC’s incredible marketing budget, which is something Tuscaloosa leaders say they’re working toward.

“We need to work on the marketing for the arts, and that budget to be able to market in a big way,” said Executive Director of the Arts and Humanities Council Sandra Wolfe.

 

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