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December 19, 2007 > Arts mean business

Arts mean business

By Anuja Seith

Music, dance, films and cultural events are all essential ingredients of a vibrant community. They provide inspiration and enjoyment to residents, beautify shared public places, and strengthen a community's social fabric. For many, fine arts are considered an indulgence representing the expenditure of a few dollars and an hour or so of pleasure. People who believe this may want to think again. Cultural and artistic activities not only indulge our senses, but provide a huge boost to the local economy too.

"When people come to watch a play or an exhibition, they buy gasoline, food and pay for parking and hotels in case of an overnight stay," says Will Weiss, Executive Director of New York Arts and Business Council. Cultural activities promote tourism affecting hospitality, travel, retail and child care. They are also a magnet for local residents and families to live in the community and contribute to its growth.

According to Weiss, artistic and cultural events help companies retain their best employees, adding to quality of life. The arts contribute to the community and other businesses as well, pumping revenue into a local economy and providing a livelihood for its citizens. A recent national study, Arts & Economic Prosperity III published by Americans for the Arts, showed that the non-profit arts and cultural industry generates $5.7 million full time equivalent jobs, and contributes $ 9.1 billion in state government tax revenues and $ 12.6 billion in federal government tax revenues. Total expenditures by the arts and culture industry and audiences totaled $166.2 billion in 2005.

Arts and culture organizations pay their employees, purchase supplies, contract for services, and acquire assets from within their communities, propelling creativity and making cash registers ring. On a national basis, although a majority of the audiences (61%) originated from the county in which the event took place, visitors spent significantly more demonstrating the economic rewards of attracting arts and culture tourists.

Many city officials are aware of the economic impact of arts and cultural entertainment. A prime indicator of the health of a town or city is the vitality of the art community within its environs. Arts & Economic Property III quotes Douglas H. Palmer, Mayor of Trenton, N.J., "Mayors understand the connection between the arts industry and city revenues. Besides providing thousands of jobs, the arts generate billions in government and business revenues and play an important role in the economic revitalization of our nation's cities." The study notes that a common misconception is that communities support the arts at a cost to local economic development. The reality is that arts and cultural events are economic engines that generate revenue and form a cornerstone for tourism. In short, the arts mean business.

Americans for the Arts
1000 Vermont Avenue, NW. 6th Floor
Washington, D.C.
(202) 371-2830

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