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Performing arts’ economic impact in the Capital City ‘far reaching’

With a hint of autumn in the air, there’s anticipation of something new to come. On television, it’s the new fall season. On the stages of Jackson, it’s a new fall season as well, as the various arts organizations gear up to entertain metro area residents.

“The arts are certainly a draw. Most are people from this area, but we do get some people who come in and stay overnight,” says Linda Mann, vice president of of marketing for the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “The economic impact is really far reaching. We hear from business recruiters all the time that in order to attract top-level managers, the cultural climate has to be strong. We are fortunate to have that in this area.”

In addition to tourism dollars and attracting top management positions, Mann also adds that “when you consider all the performing arts groups, as well as the visual arts, you’re talking about a lot of full-time employees. There are many full-time jobs associated with those organizations. From the ballet, symphony and opera to the Kessler Shows, New Stage and even the rock and country shows that come in, the economic impact from the arts is a significant one.”

Mississippi Symphony Orchestra

The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s Bravo! Series began Saturday, September 15. “It’s going to be a fantastic season,” says Tom Corlett, box office manager and director of marketing for the Symphony. “Our season opener features Lisa Pegher, a percussion soloist. That’s certainly starting the season with a bang!”

The Symphony also has a Pops Series and a Chamber Series. The Pops Series kicks off November 16 with music from the movies, featuring sounds and video clips from the most popular adventure films ever. One of the most well-known pops concerts is the annual Pepsi Pops at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, sponsored by Brown Bottling Group.

“The corporate support we receive is imminently important,” says Corlett. “So much so, that we probably couldn’t do what we do without it.”

Corporate support for the Symphony comes from AT&T, Pepsi, St. Dominic Health Services, BCI, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, Mississippi Arts Commission and others.

The Symphony’s Chamber Series opens September 23, with the “Brilliantly Baroque” concert.

Mississippi Opera

Log on to the Mississippi Opera’s Web site at www.msopera.org, and one will see a long list of corporate supporters.

“The list could always be longer,” says Elizabeth Stevens, administrative director for the organization. Formed in 1945, the Mississippi Opera is the 11th oldest continually producing professional opera company in America.

“Opera is one of the most expensive arts to produce,” explains Stevens. “It requires a live orchestra, singers, actors, costumes and sets. It’s like all the arts rolled into one. The amount of sponsorship dollars we receive has a direct correlation on how elaborate a production we can present. Of course, we always want more, because we dare to dream big.”

The Opera’s season opens November 10 with “La Boheme,” followed by “Love in the Afternoon” February 16 and “The Marriage of Figaro” April 19.

International Ballet Competition

While the International Ballet Competition (IBC) is held every four years, the economic impact is quite significant.

“The IBC does an extensive economic impact report following the event every four years and for 2006, the last one held, that number was $7.5 million economic impact, up $1.3 million from 2002 event,” says Mara Hartmann, manager of public relations and communications for the Jackson CVB. “We had 36,629 people attended from 44 states, plus there was a dance school that had 296 enrollees from 24 states and three countries. These figures come from a study conducted by the Department of Economic and Workforce Development at USM (University of Southern Mississippi). Economic impact was calculated using attendance numbers and figures from ticket sales.”

Hartmann says that the prestige of hosting the USA IBC and the national and international media coverage the city receives is as valuable or more so than the actual economic impact.

Ballet Mississippi

Ballet Mississippi is considered the premier ballet company in Jackson and has a long history of providing beautifully staged performances. Started as the Jackson Ballet Guild in 1964, and guided by Thalia Mara, Ballet Mississippi has nurtured an appreciation and love of quality ballet in Mississippi.

A holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker” will be performed November 30 through December 2.

Sponsors are very important, from a financial standpoint, explains David Keary, director of Ballet Mississippi. “But we try to look at the bigger picture. Businesses need to be involved in what the arts are doing because it helps to build an overall sector of the community.” Presenting a performance is costly. “All of the arts groups in the community spend a lot of money to go in and out of Thalia Mara Hall. And that’s the centerpiece of the city. When businesses inject money into the arts, they are contributing to the quality of life and the overall standard of living. When the curtains go up, we want those business people to be there with their employees and their families.”

‘Phenomenal’

“For a city its size, Jackson’s performing arts and culture scene is really phenomenal,” says Hartmann. “We have a professional theater, symphony, opera and two professional ballet companies, plus many other high-quality theater companies, choruses, a community band and more. Then there are the performing artists and groups from our colleges and universities — the students themselves and the talent they may bring in during an academic year — most of these performances are open to the public and are free or low cost. All of this, coupled with a thriving live music scene, means you can catch some sort of live performance virtually every night of the year, and that speaks very highly to our quality of life and our desirability as a place to visit.”

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