The value of the arts and culture to a community's economy could not have come into sharper focus than with two developments here -- one, yet another extension on the DaVinci Machines Exhibition and the other the approval of state funding for arts programs.
The first comes with little surprise given the wildly successful attraction of the Renaissance artist's masterful engineering wonders at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium. The second is a bit of a surprise given Gov. Rick Scott's vetoes of arts allocations during his years in office.
People want culture. They gravitate to places that satisfy their intellectual curiosity and taste. They build businesses, raise their children and contribute their talents in communities that embrace cultural values -- and further a creative environment.
Study after study has proven the value of the arts not just in a community's economy but in the quality of life. Those local evaluations have been bolstered by a recent national study by the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.
That December 2013 report quantified the economic impact of the arts and culture nationally -- putting the total at $504 billion of the gross domestic product in 2011, 3.2 percent of the GDP.
Bradenton's been ahead of the curve on this vital economic development tool for years. The formation of Realize Bradenton after a public visioning process spurred the development of Riverwalk, numerous popular public events and fresh initiatives designed to infuse the community's economy with staying power well into the future.
But back to the present: The DaVinci Machine Exhibition has been drawing some 7,000 to 8,000 curiosity seekers a month since opening in November 2013, an incredibly long run of popularity. People are enthralled with the 60 machines based on DaVinci's drawings and built by Italian crafters.
First forecast to close in April, the exhibit's stay was extended into May, then July, then August. This has meant a great deal to Bradenton and Manatee County as people have visited from around the state and elsewhere to see this truly inspirational cultural exhibition.
The spillover impact on the South Florida Museum -- which smartly marketed a ticket package with the exhibit -- shows the value of a culturally aware community.
The completion of the Manatee Performing Arts Center took years longer than hoped, but this fairly new downtown Bradenton landmark stands alongside Riverwalk as a civic treasure.
Less than a year from its grand opening, the home of the renowned Mantee Players theater troupe, the center has drawn such premiere events as the Sarasota Film Festival -- where a top-notch locally produced film debuted there in March.
But on top of that the Movieville International Film Festival committed to staging its cinema festival here in April, even renaming the event to the Bradenton Art Movieville Film Featival. The young festival, only four years old, had been based in Sarasota.
Also important, though, is the state grant this year to the Manatee Players, at $108,000 -- a signifanct jump from last year's paltry $26,700.
In celebrating the state allocation, Rick Kerby, the producing director of the Manatee Players, told Herald enertainament write Marty Clear this month that it "felt like a holiday."
"I've never known this to happen," he added.
Happen it did, Our jobs-focused governor finally understands the value of the arts on the economy. We've known that here in Manatee County for years.