Expressing a Community’s Authentic Identity | Neil Levine

New Approach To The Arts And Tourism

Neil Levine is the Executive Director of Brevard Cultural Alliance (BCA), Brevard’s designated local arts agency. For more information, visit www.artsbrevard.org.
Neil Levine is the Executive Director of Brevard Cultural Alliance (BCA), Brevard’s designated local arts agency. For more information, visit www.artsbrevard.org.

You probably know that innovative cultural offerings can attract tourists. But perhaps you didn’t realize that a new approach to creating cultural destination is currently underway in Central Florida.

Brevard Cultural Alliance (BCA) has been working with individual cities to build capacity to deliver cultural offerings that leverage their community’s unique attributes. This approach engages the community to explore its distinct personality – and express it through the arts. BCA, Brevard’s designated local arts agency, is partnering with these cities to help them learn how to express their authentic identity through innovative art events, which attract residents as well as cultural tourists, and lead to positive economic impact.

Titusville is a great example. Located near Kennedy Space Center, Titusville boasts an abundance of engineering and scientific talent. So, BCA partnered with the Greater Titusville Renaissance, the Titusville Chamber of Commerce and community volunteers to create the “Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival,” an annual event providing interactive, digital art experiences.

Cultivating International Recognition

As a result, artists from around the world have traveled to Brevard to participate, and the festival, which places the arts at the heart of the community, has also received support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) through a grant—which signals national validation of the unique efforts going on to raise the profile of the arts in Central Florida. As a matter of fact, the NEA was so impressed with Art and Algorithms that they subsequently awarded a second grant. These were the first two grants this national organization has ever awarded in Brevard. Why? Because this is a new approach to using the arts; interpreting our assets through an arts discipline, and bringing real benefits to the community. Today, this event delivers an economic contribution to the city that it would not otherwise enjoy.

BCA is also working with the City of Palm Bay on an initiative that focuses on a different set of community attributes – tied to the natural environment. To generate more interest in the area, BCA and the City of Palm Bay, along with the Florida Institute of Technology, EFSC, and others joined together to create the “Art of Sustainability” event in 2015, which brought kinetic artists from across the globe to exhibit their monumental sculptures in a beautiful lakeside setting. Driven by wind, the kinetic sculptures constantly changed shape to provide a mesmerizing spectacle. A “sustainability symposium”, with nationally noted speakers, was also held at the same time —all of which drew visitors, residents, arts enthusiasts and environmentalists to the area.

Getting in Step

This fall, BCA is supporting another new cultural event called Sole Summit 2016. Sole Summit will be a three-day hip hop dance convention taking place in August, featuring internationally recognized choreographers who have worked on the sets of television shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and with perfomers like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Pharrell. Melbourne has a significant underground culture of hip hop dancers, and those dancers typically have to travel to cities like New York, L.A. or Las Vegas to participate in an event of this caliber. Now, not only can those performing artists stay in the area, but a high profile professional event such as this is sure to attract visitors from across the state and southeastern region of the United States. And those tourists will bring dollars that benefit the local economy.

Unique efforts like these have enabled the art and cultural sectors to contribute more than $71.3 million annually to our local GDP—and that number continues to rise.

Of course, this illustrates only one model of how cities around the country can get creative in leveraging their arts and cultural offerings to attract tourists, build powerful connections, engage communities and reap the economic benefits.


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