Adding public art along Atlantic City's Boardwalk will enhance the walking experience, appeal to local residents and tourists and draw new leisure travelers by giving them another reason to visit, officials said.
"We're trying to draw a leisure traveler to Atlantic City. ... Visitation to cultural attractions is a very high priority on their wish list of attractions that they would want in any destination they would want to go to," said Liza Cartmell, the head of the Atlantic City Alliance, a casino industry-funded marketing nonprofit behind the initiative.
The Atlantic City Tourism District Master Plan, which was issued at the start of the year as a framework for developing the resort, had targeted the Boardwalk and areas between it and Pacific Avenue for immediate improvement.
"When we were creating the marketing plan and dealing with the new promotional campaign through the media outlets, it became so clear to us that there were a number of priorities in terms of enhancing the visitor experience, which was to improve the walkability of the city as well as the number and type of attractions that were available to visitors as well as residents," Cartmell said.
But it wasn't public art that was identified in the plan as a high priority, but rather other ideas, such as adding pavilions and "pop-up" retail spaces along the Boardwalk. Cartmell said officials began looking in another direction after marketing consultants, including those who crafted the "Do Anything, Do Everything, Do AC" ad campaign, recommended the resort consider installing public art as a way to generate tourism interest.
As part of that strategy, the alliance unveiled the Duality light show at Boardwalk Hall during the July 4th weekend, and over the past several months has been working to add other displays, including two public art exhibits that were scheduled to open Nov. 9. A third arts installation is expected to open in 2013.
The current exhibits - one on the site of the former Sands Casino at Kentucky Avenue and Boardwalk and the second on California Avenue and the Boardwalk - are unique in that they are designed to be temporary art pieces sitting on otherwise privately owned vacant land.
"The most obvious spots that became available in terms of short-term needs were these major empty lots," Cartmell said. "The opportunity is to provide some interim enhancement to those areas that would create attractions that would appeal to visitors."
Having more attractions gives visitors more reasons to extend their trips, officials said. The other unique element of the setup is that the art installations are temporary, and would be removed should the property be sold or developed, "which would be the preferred alternative," Cartmell said.
Officials also said they want the attractions to be a benefit to local residents.
"That kind of pride and that kind of community support is really critical for the long-term success of any hospitality destination," Cartmell said.
Another goal of the installations, directed by Lance Fung, the curator of "Snow Show" in Lapland and Turin, Italy, is to generate more media attention for the city. The more attention the resort receives, the more interest there will be in the destination among leisure travelers, Cartmell said.
"We do think it will create interest in people who maybe had never thought of coming to Atlantic City," she said. "It really does appeal to the creative class."
Officials said they hope the installations might draw the fanfare that "The Gates" installation in Central Park, New York City, drew in 2005. New York officials said that during a 16-day period, the park's art installation drew 4 million visits, which was about three or four times more than the typical volume in February.
Cultural tourism is desirable market segment among travelers, according to researchers.
Tourists who go to a place for its art and culture tend to travel more often - an average of five trips rather than four - and farther - more than a third said they traveled between 100 and 300 miles for a day trip - according to a study conducted for the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council by Mandala Research.
"The uniqueness of the cultural and heritage offering is something that attracts a certain segment of travelers," said Laura Mandala of Alexandria, Va., who helped conduct the research in 2009.
Such travelers are looking for art that is typical of an area's history and local art community. While they will be drawn to installations that have a certain "wow-factor," such as "The Gates," travelers crave the authenticity of local art and culture.
"Local definitely is better," Mandala said. "People are there to see that city."
Contact Hoa Nguyen:
Timeline of Public Art Program
February: Gov. Chris Christie signs legislation creating state oversight of Tourism District
April: Casino Reinvestment Development Authority establishes boundaries of Tourism District. Marketing the resort shifts to the casino industry-funded nonprofit, Atlantic City Alliance
February: Tourism District's master plan is approved
April: Atlantic City Alliance launches "Do AC" advertising campaign and begins work on public art initiative. Curator Lance Fung is hired. Moment Factory, the creators of the Duality light show, also start work.
July 4: Duality light show debuts
Nov. 9: Unveiling of new public art installations at the former Sands Casino at Kentucky Avenue and Boardwalk and by California Avenue and Boardwalk
May: Expected unveiling of third public art installation