Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor The arts produce aesthetic works that symbolically capture shared human thoughts and feelings. As we enter the arts season here in Highlands I believe this statement is an important reminder of the value of the arts. While the arts provide entertainment, they also take us beyond ourselves to see and experience the world in new and different ways. My mentor and arts advocate, the late Lamar Dodd, said on many occasions that the arts are similar to religion in that both are transformative experiences of the mind and spirit. In fact, the visual, musical and performing arts can be powerful components of worship. I was reminded of the power of the arts this past weekend when I attended two public events. First, I took my family to the Highlands Motoring Festival to see all the beautiful vehicles on display in the park. What did that have to do with art? Everything. Those classic cars can be viewed as works of art with their aesthetic designs, dynamic forms, surfaces, textures and colors all melded into precise functionality. Art is a vital part of our community. The venue for the car show and this coming Saturday night’s low country boil, Founders Park, exemplifies a community work of art. I also went to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Performing Arts Center. I had the honor to make remarks before a distinguished gathering. I opened my remarks by emphasizing the value of the arts and the economic impact of the arts in communities. Cities across the country focus on sports and mega facilities as economic drivers. Ironically, study after study indicate a viable arts community has a greater economic impact. Case in point New York. Yes, it has the Yankees, the Giants, the Jets, the Mets, the Nicks and Rangers, but it also has two art Mets, the museum and opera, Broadway, the Philharmonic, the ballet, libraries, museums and concert halls galore. I just read a report published by North Carolina Arts called, “It’s the Economy, Genius!” This report emphasized the financial impact of the arts in North Carolina. The arts and culture industry in the state generate over 2 billion dollars in spending each year. The report highlighted that arts organizations spend $940,000 in programming and operations alone, while additional audience spending is $1.18 billion. Non-profit arts and cultural organizations in the state provide almost 72,000 full time jobs. An important statistic in this report states that for every three attendees of arts/cultural events one is not a local attendee. That means the arts promote tourism in many parts of the state like in this area. Cultural/arts tourism is a critical component in the hospitality industry of Western Carolina. So, it is also economically important that Highlands continue to be an arts and cultural venue in Western Carolina. While the arts are life affirming experiences, they are also economic drivers for a community. Like our current arts facilities, this new performing arts center will be a tremendous asset for the community for years to come.