A year-round arts economy
Bethel Woods cannot change this region by itself. By recognizing and celebrating the historical heritage of the area—the scale and charm of the many villages and hamlets of the county and the character and economic importance of the family farms and small businesses—we can attract and accommodate visitors to our area and improve their experience while they are here. Our future, in my opinion, isn’t in replacing what we have with something bigger, more commercial, or more “touristy.” Instead, I see a Sullivan County and surrounding area that uses historic preservation principals to adapt old structures for new uses and builds upon the human scale of the existing villages and communities. At the same time, it can develop the modern infrastructure needed to support a new, year-round tourism industry in a way that respects the rural nature of the region.
The model has changed. Sullivan County and the greater Catskills region will never again see the resorts that were the mainstay of the regional economy in the first half of the last century. We need to replace the summer/winter boom/bust cycle with cultural opportunities, services and attractions and jobs that last all year and offer employment stability and things for our residents—year-round and seasonal—something to do.
My vision? A place where prosperity is not seasonal, where residents and visitors can find expression for their hopes and dreams, and where the past not only lives side-by-side with the present, but is a vibrant part of it.
[Wade Lawrence is the director of The Museum at Bethel Woods.]