By Adam Booth and Monica Wilson
Listen to the voices of the West Virginia artists! From
storytellers, dancers and musicians to photographers,
painters, and writers, artists have something to say every day.
Arts Day at the West Virginia State Legislature is
coming up on Mar. 2. It is a day for the arts community
to showcase their contributions to the West Virginia creative economy. The goal is to raise awareness among
our policy leaders on how important it is to invest in the
arts for every West Virginian.
We are adding our voices to this chorus.
West Virginia has incredible art venues across the
state. Many of these venues are successful, in part, because of the grants awarded from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History. These investments
in the creative economy generate positive economic
benefits for West Virginia communities.
Research from 2020 shows that arts and cultural economic activity nationwide contributed 4.2 percent of
gross domestic product (GDP), or $876.7 billion. In
West Virginia, arts and cultural production added $1.3
billion to the state’s economy, with over 13,000 jobs.
One example of the impact of the arts is the Contemporary American Theater Festival hosted at Shepherd
University in Shepherdstown, WV. Shugoll Research
conducted a study of the 2018 Festival that showed
$5.86 million in economic activity supporting over 80
jobs. That included $340,000 to the local government
and $745,000 to our state government. The report states
the impact this way: “The Contemporary American Theater Festival…enhances the quality of life for residents
and visitors, as well as generating tourist revenue. Both
the Festival’s direct and indirect economic impact have
residual effects that can be felt throughout the local and
Another story of the arts community impact can be
told from the porch overlooking the Cacapon River. The
River House was created in 2017 as an art and music
venue from a vacant building on the river bank in Capon
Bridge, West Virginia. Today the River House has 2 full-time and 6 part-time employees with $152,000 in gross
The River House’s fi ve-year impact includes 1,238
events, reaching over 1,500 students through field trips,
assemblies, and after-school programs and over $75,000
in support for local producers.
The success of the River House sparked a revitalization. In the past 5 years, new businesses have opened in
Capon Bridge, including an Appalachian music school,
an Air BnB and a store offering West Virginia-made art
and craft items. Two local banks in Capon Bridge saw
a significant increase in new accounts and loan activity.
Recent private investment in renovating older buildings
topped $2.2 million, adding to the town’s vitality and
This incredible community impact could not happen
without donations from individuals, foundations, and
state and federal grants.
As professionals in the creative economy, we know
the state and local leaders’ support for the arts has been
instrumental in our success. Working together, we can
continue to build a resilient arts industry and more vital,
happier and healthier communities across West Virginia.
We would be remiss if we didn’t say thank you to
those that have made the arts stronger in West Virginia
– from West Virginia’s First Lady Cathy Justice to our
local businesses leaders and volunteers to the excellent
staff at the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture &
History like Curator Randall Reid-Smith. We appreciate
Continued financial support for our West Virginia
artists and arts organizations is critical to keep the arts
alive and well. We encourage every state, county, city
and town leader to support the arts in their community.
On Mar. 2, we ask our West Virginia State Legislators to listen to our artists! The arts bring jobs, joy and
tourists, strengthening our vibrant and creative West
(Adam Booth is a nationally-touring storyteller, musician and educator. He is the 2022 West Virginia Folk
Artist of the Year and teaches as an adjunct professor in
the Appalachian Studies Program.
Monica Wilson is the Executive Director of The River
House, a non-profi t arts and music center. She is also a
professional portrait and landscape photographer and
Discussion about this post