The nonprofit arts and culture industry injects billions of dollars into local economies, according to a new report from Americans for the Arts, though it still hovers under the cloud of the Great Recession.
The fourth edition of "Arts & Economic Prosperity" reveals that the industry generated $135.2 billion of economic activity -- $61 billion from nonprofit organizations and $74 billion in audience expenditures -- in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. It also generated $22.3 billion in local, state and federal revenue, the report said, and supports more than 4 million full-time jobs.
Robert L. Lynch, the CEO of Americans for the Arts, admitted that the numbers are still down when compared to figures from 2005, before the recession began having an impact on the industry. But considering what the economy has been through over the past seven years, he said there is every reason to be optimistic about the national state of the arts.
"In 2010, housing was down, attitudes were down, there's a major mortgage problem -- we couldn't have picked a worse year in a hundred years," he said. "So given that, I'd say the information about jobs and the overall economic impact was very positive."
The number of arts attendees visiting from out of town, who typically pay more for lodging, food and other expenses, decreased 7 percent in 2010, and spending in general decreased by about $25 billion.
Lynch said that despite the industry's ebbs and flows, the new report proves that the arts remain "open for business."
"People are clearly still going to arts events. They may not be paying as much, but they're going," he said.
The report, which analyzed 9,721 arts organizations and 151,802 of their attendees, was released in conjunction with Americans for the Arts' annual convention in San Antonio, Texas, attended by more than 700 nonprofit leaders from around the country.
Many of the panels dealt with framing the arts as a vital part of national economic impact. Speakers like Mary McCullough-Hudson, the president of ArtsWave in Cincinnati, stressed that she and others need to continue helping people across the country understand that the arts are worthwhile and that they have a far-reaching effect on local communities.
Out-of-town visitors don't merely attend cultural events -- they go to dinner beforehand, pay a local parking attendant, go out for dessert and then come home and pay the babysitter.
McCullough-Hudson argued that cultural events impact every aspect of a neighborhood. “You’re not doing cool art just to bring people to a neighborhood to shop, but that is an outcome of that," she said, according to the San Antonio Express News.
Other speakers at the convention echoed her sentiment.
“Arts and creativity is a special sauce," said Los Angeles County Arts Commission director Laura Zucker. "If we could bottle and resell it to people, everyone would want to buy it. The challenge is to sell it.”
The study comes on the heels of a recent report showing that Broadway productions injected $11.2 billion into the New York economy during the 2010-2011 season, a 9 percent jump over the previous two years.
At the same time, the price of Broadway premium tickets increased, as did the household income of the average Broadway theatergoer, which reached $244,100 per year.