Art meets economics



3 June 2016 - The last couple weeks I’ve looked at the role of public art to lift spirits, inspire and motivate. But what of the economic benefits?

There’s always been debate over whether art has more intrinsic or instrumental value. Intrinsic value refers to the artistic value of the art, as a piece of individual expression. Instrumental value refers to the ability of art to educate, create jobs, raise real estate values, increase tourism, and attract new residents. .At a glance, there’s a tremendous amount of research and case history which point to the role of public art in promoting economic growth.

I recently gave a tour of our Sulphur Lake Sculpture Trail – this time to a group who chartered a bus from Tauranga specifically to enjoy this artistic gem. Following the tour, our visitors all went off to the Museum café for lunch and then spent a few hours in our city to see more sculpture and do a little shopping. And that’s basically how it works.

At a global mural conference in 2008 I heard from representatives of over 100 towns worldwide who have adopted public murals as their key economic development strategy. Although murals are free to enjoy, the additional spend by visitors travelling to see them is quite incredible. Chermainus, for example, a once dying little forestry town in Canada estimates that every year its outdoor gallery generates over $20 million to the local economy. NZ’s mural town, Katikati adopted the same model and is our local champion.

I wonder, have you herd about the cows in Morrinsville? Apparently there are over 40 life size hand-painted cow sculptures dotted all through the town. They’ve created a permanent exhibition in the form of a quirky public arts trail which probably shouldn’t be missed.

Although we’ve driven through that area countless times over the years, we’ve never actually stopped in Morrinsville. Never had a reason to.

But you know, I think next time we’ll make the effort and go check out the cows. And then we’ll probably find a café for lunch, explore some antique shops; maybe pick up a couple groceries…


Page reviewed: 03 Jun 2016 8:00am