Change, improvement and innovation often start with a question.
With the addition of a new mural on University Avenue and Oxford’s arts center, the Powerhouse, located there – this semester Oxford Stories is embarking on a small solutions journalism project. Our reporters are starting a community conversation about the possibility of a continued arts emphasis in the University Avenue area.
Is it a good idea or bad idea? We won’t know until we ask.
What we do know is that the arts generate revenue, and there are many kinds of arts businesses. Some include concert venues, theatres, galleries, home décor and furnishing stores, tattoo shops, graphic design businesses, and the culinary arts.
Data released in 2018 by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts offered insight about how the arts impact America.
They contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy, more than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing.
Approximately 4.9 million arts workers are employed in the U.S. earning more than $370 billion annually.
In Mississippi, about 26,000 arts workers in the state earn $1.2 billion, and the arts contributed $2.6 billion annually to the state’s economy.
In Oxford and Lafayette County, a recent economic study found that more than 222,000 people attend an art and cultural event in Oxford annually with 30% from outside Lafayette County. This generated an $11 million dollar impact for the community.
Prompted by the new mural, Oxford Stories reporters were asked to explore the University Avenue corridor, speaking to business owners in the area, local artists, and city leaders.
We wanted to know if they believe the University Avenue area is declining, thriving or being revitalized? Is it booming with commerce and activity, or is it considered the older part of town?
Have business owners and area organizations seen businesses leave the University Avenue area, or have they seen business growth?
Are they worried the area may decline in the future, or are they hopeful it will continue to attract businesses and customers?
Do they face any issues or challenges? Are they concerned about the growth of surrounding areas and how it will impact them?
What did they think about the new mural added last summer to University Avenue? If they could craft a vision for University Avenue, what would it be?
The street is already home to the new mural, the Powerhouse community arts center, a building that houses other small business offices, a number of stores that specialize in home décor and furnishings, antique stores, a fabric store, a tattoo shop, a flower and gift shop, a bakery that sells artistic goods, and other creative storefronts.
Do those who work on University Avenue think a continued arts emphasis in the area would help in any way?
Our hope is that the series will generate new ideas and conversation that will help improve our town and community.