Lackawanna County is dedicated to the growth and evolution of the arts in our communities. Our vision is to be an inclusive community where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a rich diversity of art and culture experiences. The Department of Arts and Culture will advocate and support high quality arts opportunities and programs for people of all ages throughout Lackawanna County. The Department will provide services to artists and arts organizations in the region as well as make grants to qualified artists and arts organizations.
In 2004, an Education and Culture Tax was implemented, and programs were developed for the purpose of enriching the county through arts and culture, through an additional mill on assessed property value. (1/1000 of property assessed) which generates approximately $1.3 million in funding for arts and culture in the county. Lackawanna County is the only county in Pennsylvania to have such a funding stream. This fee has been able to support artists and organizations, provide free programming, and offer technical assistance to artists and arts leaders in the community.
In 2008, Lackawanna County launched the ARTS Engage! initiative, a partnership with the Office of Family and Youth Services (OFYS). This initiative was established to fund organizations to enable them to conduct free or low-cost public arts programming. Children and adolescents within OFYS services are placed in these programs as an alternative to traditional therapies to develop prosocial skills. The success of this program led the Arts and Culture Department and other county departments to discuss how the arts can be used as a vehicle to help solve social challenges, and other issues facing the community, while and increasing well-being and health.
Arts and culture provide a vehicle for understanding and acting on issues that face communities worldwide.
Arts and the Economy
It is no secret that Lackawanna County is continuing to redefine itself for the 21st century, climbing out of its deindustrialized past as a former coal mining region. There are, however, signs of a Renaissance occurring in downtown Scranton. The city in 1910 had a population of 129,867 which has since declined to 77, 291 in 2016 (Although this was an increase in population of 1.5 percent since the 2010 census.)
There is an increasing population choosing to live in the downtown, which is spurring developers to invest in apartments and small businesses and restaurants are opening. There are also strong educational and medical communities in the region. Unemployment was down in the region in 2016, but challenges still exist as the median salaries for the region have not increased, according to the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development’s 2017 Indicators Report. The 2016 Living Wage study completed by the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, Education for Justice and the office of Community and Government Relations at the University of Scranton reported that 14% of people in Lackawanna County live below the federal poverty line. The arts can be a key to help in regional revitalization by creating and fostering economic development generators, such as small arts businesses, festivals, and other amenities which improve the quality of life and make the region a more attractive place to live and work. There also exist great opportunities to create cultural tourism, as the region has many heritage attractions, arts, and cultural events, and outdoor recreational opportunities.