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The Difference a DIY Cultural Revival Can Make

The small city of York, Pennsylvania, bet big on artists to boost economic development. It’s starting to pay off.
relates to The Difference a DIY Cultural Revival Can Make
Royal Square/Andrew Small/Madison McVeigh/CityLab

In 2009, Alex Dwyer was 19, two years out of high school and stuck in York, Pennsylvania. Like many of her cohort idling in the wake of the Great Recession, she was stuck in her hometown, waiting for anything to happen.

She’d grown up in the suburbs of this small city in south-central Pennsylvania. After a semester of college in Seattle and then more than a year touring with bands around the country, she’d come back—another Rust Belt returnee, full of ideas. She’s seen flourishing arts scenes in cities like Asheville, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh, and she asked herself, “Why can’t that happen in York?”