APR 2009

Fringe as Economic Stimulus

There is much talk in the news about stimulating the economy through federal funding. To most economic observers, this is a wise move on the part of the government – greasing the skids for communities and businesses to invest in local development.

This can’t be the end of the recovery story, though. As citizens, it’s our responsibility to act on a local basis and make the occasional spending and giving decisions which best enrich our community.

We have structured the Fringe in Los Angeles to provide an injection of enthusiasm, patronage, and funding to the arts in Los Angeles and the communities that support them. With arts on the rise, our city becomes a more attractive destination for cultural tourism. As a community’s culture prosper, more people seek to live in and visit that community. This clustering of development around culturally-rich neighborhoods increases the bankrolls of local businesses, contractors, and governments. More money is reinvested in infrastructure and beautification further increasing the desirability of the community…a healthy and thriving arts scene is key to this formula.

How does the structure of our festival encourage this stimulus effect?

First in our minds is attracting massive artistic participation. We accomplish this through low application and production fees and our policy of “come one, come all”. As described multiple times on this website, the Fringe is “unjuried” – there is no central organization calling the shots on which artists are allowed to participate. Find a venue? You have a show. The word “Fringe” itself attracts artists around the world with its reputation for vitalizing artistic community and careers for the past 6 decades.

Second comes the task of bringing audience to enjoy these Fringe shows. Besides the obvious tasks ahead of us (read: making parking easy and convenient), we wield the ultimate tool for attracting mass attendance: Low Ticket Prices, Lots of Selection. For art lovers, this will be a “kid-in-a-candy-store” environment. Traditionally, a big chunk of fringe-goers are not regulars to the performing arts – though this changes once they attend a Fringe. Many local Fringe artistic companies note a spike in their attendance post-Fringe – patrons who never thought to catch an exciting new play over that Jim Carey film at the cineplex suddenly roll by the theatre box office.

Next comes the huge benefit to local businesses that participate in Fringe-happenings. Edinburgh Fringe Festival (the original Fringe) famously pumps over $100 million dollars into its local economy. Artists from out-of-town need places to eat and stay – visiting patrons need meals and shopping between Fringe shows. Sponsors of Fringes find their name printed on periodicals handed to thousands and thousands of patrons not to mention the associated media coverage. Increased cultural tourism leads to community beautification which leads to even more tourism. Businesses prosper as the Fringe grows.

Looking to Summer 2010 – we all hope media talk of “recovery” replaces the glum stories on “recession” and “stimulus”. Even in the best of economies, we at the Fringe will always be in the stimulus business.