Culture is what gives a city its soul. When most people talk about the quality of life in a place, they often think about the things that make that community special, that give it character.
The culture of our community is more than a slew of festivals and community celebrations, though we have plenty of those. Pensacola’s culture is a strong traditional arts community. It is culture that celebrates its traditional ties to the military and serves as home for the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron — the Blue Angels. It is a culture that celebrates small businesses that build up neighborhoods like Warrington and Brownsville and Belmont-DeVilliers and create jobs that sustain those neighborhoods. It also is a culture that values community service, one that supports dozens of nonprofits that use both public and private dollars to improve the lives of those who are less fortunate or at-risk.
Culture is also a business in Pensacola. Our county collected “bed tax” on every hotel room rented and then uses that public money to promote and support arts, culture and community events that are meant to draw locals and tourists alike.
With a ballet, opera, symphony, theatre and an accredited museum of visual arts, Pensacola is the only city between Mobile, Ala. and Tampa, Fla. to offer the “big five.”
A 2009 report by Americans for the Arts found the economic impact of spending by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations on Escambia County was $22.9 million. Robert Lynch, Americans for the Arts CEO noted “communities that invest in the arts reap the additional benefit of jobs, economic growth, and a quality of life that positions those communities to compete in our 21st century creative economy.”
Culture and tourism are business — BIG business — in this community. Escambia County’s $1.3 billion tourism industry directly supports more than 20,000 jobs.