In an effort to grow arts and culture tourism, Fairfax County is joining with the Town of Occoquan and Occoquan Regional Park to create an arts and culture district, making it the first such interjurisdictional district in the state.
The NOVA Arts and Cultural District was approved on Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors and will be officially established pending the Town of Occoquan adopting a similar statute on July 18. A new state law that became effective July 1 permits the creation of interjurisdictional arts and cultural districts.
“This is a shining example of localities working together to promote economic development and artistic and cultural experiences for residents and visitors alike throughout our region,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.
The new district encompasses the 55-acre Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, the regional park and town. The district will allow the area to brand itself as a regional destination for tourism, commerce and cultural leisure activities.
“It will allow us to work closely together, collaborating across county lines to produce events about art and history and music, as well as to promote our unique shopping and recreational offerings,” said Ava Spece, CEO and president for the Workhouse Arts Center. “The NOVA Arts and Culture District is a first-of-its-kind destination in Virginia.”
While the new designation will create greater awareness, the region already delivers a rich offering of arts, culture and recreation.
Since it was founded in 2008, the Workhouse Arts Center has been a hub for cultural activities in southern end of the county. It offers artists studios and galleries, over 800 arts education classes and performing arts, including: theater, musical theater, film, music and dance.
The center also hosts many special events like the Workhouse Brewfest on Aug. 12, from 1 to 8 p.m. The festival showcases local craft breweries, distilleries and cideries, food and live music.
Occoquan is a small town with a rich history that has an eclectic and thriving commercial district featuring specialty shops, art galleries and restaurants. The 350-acre Occoquan Regional Park offers boating and kayaking, hiking, athletic fields, nature programs and a multi-million-dollar event venue with views of the river.
— NOVA Parks (@NOVA_Parks) June 28, 2017
Spece believes the new district also can be a driver of economic strength for both Fairfax and Prince William counties.
Fairfax County leaders agree that it will help to grow and diversify the economy. Our economic strategy calls for creating arts districts and boosting tourism as a key tactic for success in our efforts.
Arts produce a significant economic impact in the county, according to research by the Americans for the Arts. In Fairfax County, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations employ 6,220 people. Arts events generated more than $98.2 million dollars in total spending, and attendees who don’t live in the county spend $23.50 per person, not counting the cost of admission. This is 14 percent more than county residents, which means arts and culture tourists produce real economic rewards. This money goes toward paying for lodging, transportation, meals and shopping, money that benefits our local economy.