Some might say that the arts are recognized mostly for their intangible benefits, like personal enrichment and their contributions towards lively local climates. While these subjective benefits are important-art for art's sake does matter-a new study by Americans for the Arts puts the emphasis on something much more concrete: cold, hard cash.
The report, "Arts & Economic Prosperity: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts Organizations and Their Audiences," is the most comprehensive to date on how the nonprofit arts industry boosts the American economy. According to the study, Wisconsin's nonprofit arts scene generates almost $290 million yearly in economic activity. That figure includes more than $190 million in spending by arts organizations and over $99 million in event-related spending by arts audiences. Event-related spending includes costs beyond the price of admission for an event, such as restaurant meals, lodging and parking.
"We're delighted to have these numbers for Wisconsin," stated George Tzougros, executive director of the Wisconsin Arts Board. "Coupled with increased recognition of America's rising 'creative class,' the numbers demonstrate what arts groups and their supporters have been saying for a long time: artists and arts organizations have a crucial role to play in the future growth of Wisconsin's economy."
On the national level, the arts industry generates 4.9 million jobs and $134 billion in economic activity yearly. The $134 billion total covers $53.2 billion in spending by arts organizations and $80.8 billion in event-related spending by audiences. Figures on the for-profit arts and entertainment industry were not included in the study. Also, the three largest U.S. cities (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago)-each with more than $1 billion in organizational expenditures alone-were excluded from the study to avoid inflating the national estimates.
To conduct its research, Americans for the Arts looked at 91 communities-10 from Wisconsin alone-across the U.S. during 2000-01. The diverse communities ranged in population (4,000 to 3 million), geography (Anchorage to Miami) and type (rural to large, urban areas). Local arts agencies served as research partners, collecting detailed expenditure data from 3,000 nonprofit arts organizations and 40,000 audience members. Economists from the Georgia Institute of Technology used this local data to project national estimates. The complete study--including state and local breakdowns-can be found on the Americans for the Arts Web site.
Americans for the Arts is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in the United States. It is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts.
Says Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, "The arts are an industry that generates extraordinary economic activity, jobs and tax revenues along with spectacular cultural attractions. When we say that the arts mean business, that's not just a slogan; it's the truth in Wisconsin and throughout the nation."
Clearly, the arts have a lot to offer our communities: opportunities for education and enjoyment, revitalized downtowns, higher achievement among students who participate in the arts, and--as this new study amply demonstrates--a powerful economic boost.