Even closed galleries help a town’s economy

Sidebar by Central Staff

Art – December 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

Helper, Utah, is an old railroad and mining town, similar in many ways to Salida, since it was built at the same time for the same purpose. However, Helper still has several blocks of shuttered stores downtown.

Recently some storefronts were converted to “phantom galleries.” A wall was built a few feet back from the front windows. The front part and the shop windows got cleaned, art went on the all, and lights illuminated the art at night.

“Now downtown Helper looks more vital,” said Randy Russell, who’s in charge of economic development for Carbon County, “and we have more people out at night, strolling to look at the art. Restaurants and taverns report more business. And in the first month, local artists sold $6,000 worth of their work.”

Russell, who used to work in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, used to disparage art as a tool of economic development. Light industry and outside investment were better. Now, however, “You can see direct positive effects from nurturing and developing a local arts scene. It changes a town’s image of itself, and that in turn attracts investment.”