State Capitol Week in Review | Vanburen

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Art and technology appear at first glance to be opposites in the way they are taught and how they affect economic development.

However, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has been working since 2018 to ensure there is a crucial intersection where art and technology meet.

They claim that by recognizing and promoting this “creative economy,” people in every corner of Arkansas can improve their quality of life and become more economically prosperous.

Law 577 of 2021 created the Legislative Arts and Technology Boot Camp, which recently released a detailed report based on surveys and meetings across the state.

The report takes stock of artistic wealth across all 75 counties and provides insight into how many professions and businesses rely on artistic creativity. As the Senate co-chair of Boot Camp said, “Art isn’t just singing and dancing and music.”

For example, doctors in Jonesboro taught lawmakers how to use painting, drawing, sculpting, and other forms of creative expression to improve patient outcomes. Art is especially helpful with older patients and with children who have suffered trauma.

In Texarkana, lawmakers heard from educators about the role of the arts in the robotics program at local schools.

The advertising industry appreciates graphic design, which is also used in the creation of educational videos and architectural designs. Graphic design is essential for aerospace companies that build aircraft with custom interiors, as well as furniture makers and boat builders that produce custom products.

With new incentives, Arkansas could attract more film companies to produce more films here.

Colleges and universities could offer more credit hours in film production and music recording. Arkansas colleges offer courses in 3D printing technology that have applications in manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare, dentistry, and product design.

Legislators recommended adding two members to the Arkansas Film Commission office and adding members to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission who recognize the importance of the arts in the broader economy.

Creativity has given a boost to sectors in the agricultural economy. People pay to spend a weekend on farms and learn how to dye and weave cotton and wool. Tourists seek gourmet and specialty foods where they’re grown, but high-speed Internet access is essential.

Tourism relies heavily on internet marketing. The combination of creativity and technology means there is tourism potential in all areas of Arkansas, not just in the well-known tourist destinations and cities known for art galleries, museums and theaters.

For example, GIS tours allow visitors to take self-guided tours, which in Arkansas might include an ancient church trail, a quilted trail, a shared barbecue trail, and a mural trail.

The Arts and Technology Boot Camp supports broadband access throughout Arkansas and provides grants to support local efforts.

A regional approach may be necessary to “connect and amplify” arts and technology programs in sparsely populated rural areas.

Members of the arts and technology boot camp recommended the establishment of a permanent subcommittee of the Legislative Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development that would focus on the creative industries.

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