The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) Marketing Leverage Program is designed to stimulate new tourism marketing programs through the creation of tourism partnerships and to extend the “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign. The objective of this program is to leverage limited marketing dollars, resulting in increased visitor spending, revenue, and jobs. More than $772,000 in matching grant funds will be awarded to 62 tourism initiatives as part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Marketing Leverage Program (MLP). Local entities Gear/EFV, The Oyster Farm, and Lemon Tree Gallery are one of several winners of this year’s grant.
Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the awards on Tuesday.
“Today, we take another critical step in supporting one of Virginia’s largest private sector industries and the individual communities across the Commonwealth that foster it,” said McAuliffe. “These Marketing Leverage Program grants provide a vital opportunity for destinations and businesses across the Commonwealth, helping to create jobs, promote economic development, and increase visitor spending,” McAuliffe said.
Title of the marketing initiative submitted by the group is “Art Soaked Weekends: Cape Charles”.
The lead partner in the initiative is GEAR (Global Exchange Arts Roundtable, Inc) a non-profit founded in 2015 by Renata Sheppard as a vehicle for Experimental Film Virginia. The partners are two local businesses: Lemon Tree Gallery and Studio, which already has an established partnership with GEAR and The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery, which already has an established summer music and entertainment track record as well as being a restaurant and event center.
Renata Sheppard told the Mirror, “We are hoping to lead by example with the Art Soaked Weekend project and the doors are open for other businesses, restaurants, and organizations to join our Art Soaked Weekend initiative. Please reach out to us so we can talk about making this a really effective marketing and tourism brand for our town.”
“We are launching it for the month of July and the long-term vision is that the multiple organizations that offer summer activities in the arts, food, music and entertainment experiences can collectively cover the entire summer. Although the 2017 marketing funds will be focused on the month of July, it is our hope that “Art Soaked Weekends” can become a bandwagon for everyone to ride. This is about creating momentum. The Experimental Film Virginia project has created quite a buzz but there is no point in treating it as an isolated event; it is much smarter for us to think about making the entire summer full of cool, unique events and programs. Our organization can cover one of those months,” Sheppard said. “We are trying to set the stage for future collaborations and initiatives that will bring the town of Cape Charles together…and then to bring the town of Cape Charles together within the framework of the entire Eastern Shore of Virginia.”
Every weekend in July will be covered with events such as live music, entertainment, arts and culture, the Experimental Film Virginia events such as Art in a Barn, Golf Cart Tour of the Town, Film Premiere, Bayamo Party and new additions that involve food, wine, beer and other summer events.
“We want to make the arts fun and we want to design an program that is scalable and expandable. Too many projects start out strong and die off because they get into the wrong hands, people lose steam and motivation or there is a limit to how it can expand,” Sheppard said.
Below is language from the winning grant:
Experimental Film Virginia is launching a collaboration that merges and coordinates events from three separate organizations into a unified branding and marketing initiative that will be advertised as “Art Soaked Weekends” (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). This marketing strategy leverages the existing momentum of the Experimental Film Virginia Festival and Artist Residency, now entering its 5th year, and joins forces with programming at Lemon Tree Gallery and Studio and The Oyster Farm at King’s Creek to offer curated, quality weekend experiences in Cape Charles. We deliver the message of Cape Charles as a destination spot, featuring “Art Soaked Weekends” through a highly focused marketing plan and brand awareness that is social-centric, organic and complementary to the overall tourism goals of the Eastern Shore and the state of Virginia. Eastern Shore Tourism is exponentially expanding and we want to lay the groundwork for enabling collective initiatives to leverage programming and advertising dollars for common goals of increased visitors, sales, participation and online engagement.