Culture kick started the NH tourism business, and needs a seat at the table


The other day, at the dedication of the Governor John Winant statue in Concord, I remembered the genius of Van McLeod. He was such an advocate for all the things that I love about New Hampshire. Van was fond of saying that NH had more artists, writers and poets per capita than any other state. He knew that our rich cultural past and present define us and draw so many visitors here.

New Hampshire’s mountains and lakes define our state – but it was art that put them on a world stage. Early portraits of Mount Washington piqued the imagination of people around the globe, and thousands came to the White Mountains. New Hampshire’s tourism industry was born.

On the heels of the new rugged visitors came a new economy in the North Country led by innkeepers, authors, sculptors and folks just fleeing cities where there was no air conditioning and poor sanitation in the summer.

A century later, as New Hampshire’s economy tumbled in the Great Depression, NH craftspeople and a visionary Governor came together to use our artistic vitality to rebuild the economy. The League of NH Craftsmen asked Governor John Winant for state funding in 1931 - and NH became the first state to fund the creative economy. It would be a great investment.

Today our natural treasures are being placed in the same state office as our creative wonders.

So, now with a new game plan, and our natural and cultural treasures in one basket it is time to start talking about our creative economy – our summer theatre, music festivals, performing arts centers, arts and craft shows, museums, architecture, history and our towns and cities. It is a way to honor Van’s legacy by sharing his vision. Let’s promote, blog, and publicize our art, our summer theater, our music festivals, our film festival, our historic cities, and our rich array of craftspeople. No, we don’t have Maine’s coast or Vermont’s moonlight – but we do have a rich past from Saint Gaudens to John Irving. Our natural environment is amazing, but so is our creative economy – it is already pumping million of dollar and tourists into our economy, as a recent study showed. Let's start talking about it!

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