Elorza Calls for Creation of Festival to Showcase City’s Arts and Culture on National Level

PROVIDENCE, RI – Democratic candidate for Mayor of Providence Jorge Elorza today unveiled his plan to showcase the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene on a regional and national level through the creation of a weeklong festival. He sees this festival as a “cultural calling card” that will better enable Providence to market itself as a national destination with a clear and unique brand identity.

“Our city has all the essential strengths to be a magnet city – attracting visitors, new residents, money, and talent – on par with hotbeds like Portland, OR, Austin, TX, or even Boston,” Elorza said. “I firmly believe that part of what is holding Providence back from achieving greater national spotlight is that we have not made a strong enough effort to market the city.”

The proposal uses the world-renowned South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas as a model. Since its inception in 1987, SXSW has grown from a small music festival into a nine-day music, film, and interactive technology festival. It is the single most profitable event for Austin’s tourism industry and the highest revenue producing event for the Austin economy. Elorza sees similar economic potential for an event in Providence. “The economic impact of such a festival is immediate and significant, and also has ripple effects that continue to benefit the city,” said Elorza. “The kind of profile that comes with hosting an event of this

type impacts the city all year round by strengthening its brand identity.”

Under Elorza’s plan, the City would seek a partner organization to plan and execute the festival through a request for proposals. The City would offer seed funding, and the partner agency would be responsible for assembling a planning committee encompassing representatives from many of Providence’s existing

arts, cultural, and tourism organizations. Elorza points to 2011’s Providence 375 celebration (marking the city’s 375th anniversary) as a model of engaging the community in a decentralized, hub-and-spoke network of programming and activity. “The plan is not so much to create culture; rather, it is to take existing culture, package it, and distribute it to a wider audience.” Elorza explained. “This allows the heavy lifting to be spread throughout many constituent organizations and agencies, and also fosters a sense of community ownership.”

Elorza notes that there is already a fair amount of existing goodwill towards this idea, and that many in the city’s creative community have talked of the need for a “North By Northeast” to enhance Providence’s reputation as a cultural destination. “Over many conversations with the city’s creative community, a common theme emerged: that we have all the pieces necessary to be a first-rate destination, but we haven’t successfully put those pieces together,” Elorza said. “As Mayor, I will take a leadership role in positioning the important role arts and cultural organizations play in our city’s economic development by advocating for increased support with funders and thought leaders. I will also harness the existing momentum and excitement around this idea to finally bring it to fruition.”

The full proposal can be read at the candidate’s website, www.elorzaformayor.com.

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