Let’s say that you want to promote the idea that creative tourism is valuable and that your community should support the efforts of artists to reach out to tourists. What sorts of arguments might you present to the stakeholders I’ve described—to hotel managers, restaurant owners, tourist industry professionals, city officials and so on? The following is one of the most powerful.
Artists function as renewable resources. That geyser that brought visitors to your area may begin to dry up. That church that millions throng to may have to close for repairs. The roads that the tour buses chew up likewise may need repair and cost enormous sums to keep up. But artists renew themselves. They paint a mural; and then they want to paint another one. They write a short story; and then they want to write another one. They love what they do and need to do what they do and this very devotion can be enlisted, if they are helped to make the connection, as motivational energy that will drive them to interact with visitors.
Not every resource can be renewed and not every site can be sustained. Writing tongue-in-cheek in a piece called “Cultural Tourism: Between Authenticity and Globalization,” Frans Schouten explained, “At a conference in Africa recently someone involved in a cultural tourism development project in a tribal community announced that he had included in the village tour a visit to a ritual circumcision of a boy. Such an announcement raises many questions, the first of many being, Might they run out of boys in the peak season, or how many times can you circumcise someone?”
Even in the peak season, you can’t run out of an artist’s creativity. If you run a small barbecue joint, you close your doors when the barbecue runs out. If you run a small city, you feel threatened when your revenues dwindle. The barbecue and the revenue are finite. But a folksinger can extend his concert set simply by singing another folk song. A painter can turn every blank canvas in his vicinity into something memorable. As long as they live—and as long as they feel motivated—artists can turn the lead of everyday existence into the gold of art.
A second excellent argument is that many of the tourists who come are creative themselves and would love their own creative tourism opportunities. As Joan, a visual artist, explained: “I love the idea of creative tourism. When I travel I often get frustrated about finding myself in commercial tourist areas and don’t get to the soul of a location until too far into my trip. I find that the truly creative experiences I’ve had while traveling have been in the out-of-the-way places where the artists are and that few people know about. For example, my boyfriend and I spent time watching artists sculpt and paint masks in Venice. The artists were working in the retail space that sold their masks. We were the only ones there, and the artists weren’t ‘performing’ for us; we were observing art in process. Perhaps a guided tour of such a process would be valuable, but I can’t help but think it would somehow distort the authenticity of the artist’s process.
“Likewise I really enjoy workshop vacations. I took a weekend workshop called ‘Painting from the Source’ many years ago. We painted for four hours a day, then had studio access around the clock should we wish to continue with our work. This was held at the Kripalu Institute in New England. There were yoga classes to take, walking/biking paths to wander, etc. I loved it. That workshop brought me to an area that I might otherwise not have visited, which had to benefit all the other merchants in the area.”
Star, a singer, explained: “When I have travelled alone in France, (or anywhere, for that matter) I always go as a touring artist. In other words, I am indeed a tourist, but I also want to enter that amazing country (its cities, villages, markets, shores, etc.) with the eyes, ears, voice, and soul of an artist. My curiosity and desire to connect with locals in ordinary moments provides both a cultural and creative exchange. I become a student of humanity, turning the pages with the changing landscapes.
“Even if my travels do not include paid work as an artist, I investigate my new and changing environments in the same way I investigate the theme of a riff, song or poem I am composing. If I learn a little bit about a community, I am inspired to carry that new story into a piece of work. For example, I once taught a singing class in Provence, France. I was so taken by the young students and the beauty of their little community that I later wrote a song about them. After they received it a few weeks later, I was notified that the song became the school anthem!”
As an artist, you might connect with tourists in the ways I’ve been describing. As an activist artist who actively promotes and supports the creative tourism model, you might articulate your arguments as why the model should be adopted in your community—arguments like the above two, that artists are a renewable resource and that many tourists are themselves artists or artists-at-heart—and reach out to your local government, local businesses, tourists professionals, and the like and educate them about the advantages of helping local artists connect with the area’s tourist trade. By supporting the model, you would be advocating for yourself and also advocating for all of your fellow artists.
Exercise 1: Imagine that you are presenting the creative tourism model to someone in your local government or your local business community. What are the points you would want to make? Why should city government or the business community support artists in the ways I’ve been describing?
Exercise 2: Let’s say that you wanted to add a new revenue stream to your income by creating a workshop, class, presentation, or event aimed at tourists. What sort of workshop, class, presentation or event might you create? How might you market and promote it to your potential customers?