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Growing the Economy Through Arts and Culture

Cultural economic development is one of the eight key assets of the  League’s Center for 21st Century Communities (21c3) that can help create sustainable, dynamic places, attract and retain talent, and improve the quality of life. It is an important economic engine that contributes to downtown and neighborhood revitalization, jobs, a stronger tax base, and increased tourism. Here is a snapshot of what Ludington and Mason County are doing.What started out as one person’s dream and vision over 10 years ago has become a catalyst for change not only for the city of Ludington, but for the region as well. Located halfway up Lake Michigan’s beautiful coastline, Ludington harbors a rich cultural heritage of a bygone mill and lumbering era. The city was poised to celebrate its past and future, bringing art, nature and history together, and provide an impetus for future development.


Follow the Leader: A playful and interactive sculpture invites children to shape their own image on an empty stone.

A splendor of waterfront public space was created with an inspiring sculpture park.  A playground, band shell for music and events, and a condominium development have added to the vitality and richness of this waterfront.  In addition, the importance of connecting the park to downtown was realized through pedestrian walkways.  Due to strong leadership, vibrant cultural and successful business communities, this Michigan destination attracts visitors year round and enjoys positive recognition for its strong agricultural, maritime and lumber heritage.  With the Ludington sculpture park well established and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike year round, expanding the sculpture trail regionally to Scottville, Custer, Freesoil, and Fountain has become the next step.  Fundraising has begun and the ultimate goal is to have 25 sculptures.

A Plan for Mason County

Recognizing the importance of a regional cultural economic development strategy, an 11-member task force, representing various constituent groups from the county, cities of Scottville and Ludington, private business and non-government organizations, joined together to realize its potential as a cultural hub and articulate the benefits of a strong cultural economy.

The Dummy Train: This sculpture honors and recognizes the importance of the railroad to the Ludington area.

The Dummy Train: This sculpture honors and recognizes the importance of the railroad to the Ludington area.

Did you know?

  • From 2006 to 2010, the number of arts-related jobs increased by 4%, and arts related businesses increased by 43%.
  • For every $1 Michigan invests in arts and culture, $51 is pumped back into the state’s economy.
  •  In 2010, arts, cultural, and historical attractions and events accounted for $2.1 billion to Michigan’s economy through expenditures alone—more than golf, skiing, boating, hunting/fishing and sporting events combined.
  • $152,000,000 in salaries; 15,560 jobs in arts-related jobs (FY 2009)

What does it take?

  • Recognize the value of the cultural arts as key to growing the economy and contribution to the quality of life.
  • Reach out and develop public/private partnerships.
  • Identify the leaders and stakeholders in your community.
  • Engage the community.
  • Identify what defines your community (heritage, people, products, etc.) and celebrate it!
  • Identify funding.
  • Think regionally to better leverage resources.
  • Just do it!