Regarding the May 23 story, "Local legislators question Atlantic City focus on art":

It is disappointingly short-sighted that state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, and Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, chose to criticize the use of funds from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City Alliance to support public art in Atlantic City. Both legislators are known arts supporters, but opted to draw attention to other areas in need of support by slamming the arts as somehow less valuable to residents and visitors and less relevant to economic development and revitalization. In fact, statistics demonstrate that arts and culture are strong economic drivers. It is ironic to criticize this investment on the same day as the major news headline cites a dramatic loss of casino revenue. You have to ask why?

The creation of the Tourism District and the establishment of the Atlantic City Alliance, charged with marketing the city's broad and diverse entertainment options, demonstrate the commitment state officials have to the idea of developing the city as a broader tourism destination. People and families want more than cards and dice. So kudos to John Palmieri of the CRDA and Liza Cartmell of the Atlantic City Alliance for their commitment to diversifying Atlantic City.

Las Vegas understands this and last year opened a $470 million performing arts complex. The city boasts a 500 percent growth in art galleries over five years, all part of an economic and job-growth strategy. Rob McCoy, chairman of the Las Vegas Arts Commission, noted, "Every well-rounded community has an arts community that is part of the fabric of that city, and that's exactly what is now happening in Las Vegas."

Art projects and enterprises mean good jobs in the local economy. The success of Philadelphia's casino industry is made possible precisely because the city is already a tourism destination where visitors can access a broad range of cultural and historical experiences.

A goal of the Artlantic public art project is to reclaim public space that has fallen to disuse. That helps solve one problem already, and the value of adjacent properties has risen already.

Art, history and culture can bring tremendous and lasting economic benefits to a city struggling to redefine itself and once again become a prime tourism destination.

ANN MARIE MILLER

ArtPride NJ

Burlington