Williamsburg Arts District Receives Award for ‘Outstanding Cultural Contribution’

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Fred Brayersdorfer, President of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads, presents the Alli Award to Michele Mixner DeWitt, Director of Economic Development for the City of Williamsburg. (Courtesy City of Williamsburg)
Fred Brayersdorfer, president of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads, presents the Alli Award to Michele DeWitt, director of economic development for the City of Williamsburg. (Courtesy City of Williamsburg)

The City of Williamsburg’s Department of Economic Development recently received an award recognizing its work on the city’s burgeoning Arts District.

The district was selected for the 2015 Alli Award from the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads for “Outstanding Contributions to the Cultural Life of Greater Hampton Roads.”

The Arts District was created by the Williamsburg City Council in 2011 to “encourage private investment in a mixed residential/commercial area of the city that had a high vacancy rate,” according to a recent news release from the city.

Additionally, the Arts District aims to provide more art and cultural programs to both locals and tourists.

To achieve this goal, the city offers tax incentives to businesses offering goods or services relating to performing arts, visual arts, marketing, film production, fashion design, culinary arts and other creative enterprises looking to purchase real estate in the Arts District.

“I am very pleased to report that private investment has significantly lowered the commercial vacancy rate in the district from a high of 22 percent in 2011 to six percent, which is below the national average of seven to ten percent,” Economic Development Director Michele DeWitt said.

In addition to attracting art-oriented businesses to the area, the Arts District has also been a prime location for the display of public art. Beginning in August, it became the host of a public sculpture gallery that includes 21 works of art scattered throughout the area.

To entice visitors and locals alike to check out what the Arts District has to offer, the city developed a walking tour of the outdoor art exhibit on its Williamsburg Wayfinder App, which also allows users to vote for their favorite sculpture to determine which one the city will purchase at the end of the exhibition.

“The formation of arts districts are bringing areas back to life,” said Joan L. Rhodes-Copeland, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads. “Cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia, such as Richmond and Williamsburg are ‘models’ of how a thriving arts district can enliven a city and offer many arts and cultural opportunities for its residents, their families and friends.”