One of the lesser known elements of the new Downtown Master Plan is the creation of an arts academy in downtown Owensboro. The Gateway Planning team recommends exploring options that would capitalize on the arts and education character of the community focusing on downtown.
With this in mind, the EDC is currently facilitating discussion between the region’s four colleges, universities, and local school systems to create an academy that would offer students an opportunity to study the arts in conjunction with performance and production components at the River Park Center.
The format of the academy will allow to students can begin the program in the junior year of high school and complete the program with a bachelor’s degree from one of the local colleges or universities. The academy hopes to attract students from outside the region to attend as residential students in high school. The program can be an effective tool for the attraction and retention of young talent to the region.
The arts are now one of the nation’s leading export industries. Nationally, there are more than a half million businesses that employ 2.7 million in the U.S. in “creative” industries. These creative industries are a growing part of the economy in Greater Owensboro. The number of creative industry jobs in the region jumped from 375 in 2004 to 446 in 2006, an increase of 18.9 percent. The largest increase in Owensboro came in the performing arts and music.
Unusual among cities of its size, Owensboro boasts a thriving arts life. The River Park Center, whose two auditoriums hosted more than 150 performances and 900 civic events last year, presents a wide variety of entertainment, including productions designed especially for students. The River Park Center is also known as "Broadway West" in the national theater community. Each year the River Park hosts theater companies while they build touring shows like 42nd Street. Some local talent is used in set building, costumes and technical areas before the production launches a world tour beginning with an Owensboro premiere in Cannon Hall.