Published: Jun 16, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 15, 2012 03:24 PM
Local artists and arts boosters always urge local governments and citizens to support the arts because, they say, aside from aesthetic, intellectual, social and cultural stimulation they generate, the arts fuel economic activity as well.
It’s not always easy to see that economic benefit. But that argument recently received a big boost from a major national study of the economic impact of the arts.
The report, “Arts & Economic Prosperity IV,” is a truly prodigious piece of work, the most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever done in the U.S. The report by Americans for the Arts analyzes data from 182 regions representing all 50 states plus the District of Columbia to generate findings on national, regional and local scales.
The researchers crunched a lot of numbers. And what they found was precisely what artists and arts boosters have been arguing all along: The arts do indeed generate a remarkable amount of economic activity.
According to the study, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $85.4 million in annual activity just in Orange County. The local nonprofit arts and culture scene supports the equivalent of 3,352 full-time jobs and pumps $8 million into local and state governments’ coffers.
Nonprofit arts and culture organizations spent $63.9 million in Orange County during fiscal year 2010, the report says. That spending consists of paying salaries, buying supplies, contracting for services and so on. It generated $55.6 million in household income and $5.4 million in local and state government revenues.
In addition, audiences spent $21.5 million attending nonprofit arts and culture events in Orange County. That includes not only the cost of attending an event, but eating dinner before or after the event, paying for parking, buying gifts and so on (nationally, the report found that, on average, a person attending such an event spends about $25 in addition to the cost of the event itself).
In Orange County, that spending supports 643 full-time-equivalent jobs and generates $2.5 million in local and state revenues.
Those findings echo the state and national figures. Nationally, the nonprofit arts industry generated $135 million in economic activity, supporting more than 4 million full-time-equivalent jobs and generating over $22 billion in government revenue, more than five times the collective $4 billion in government arts appropriations.
The conclusion of this report – which, it should be remembered, was conducted by an organization whose mission is to support the arts – is clear: Spending on the arts is an investment that generates robust returns.
What is remarkable is that the impressive results were seen during fiscal 2010, when nobody could see the light at the end of the recession. Even then, when people were reluctant to spend on anything other than necessities, they spent on the arts, and the arts paid back.
Spending on the arts can be a hard sell – much harder than making the case for, say, a new fire truck. But the new report should make it a little easier.
This sort of study is especially important to areas such as ours, where the arts play such a prominent role in the community.
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