Eighteen years ago there was little research documenting the economic impact of arts and culture in the Greater Washington DC metropolitan region. The key advocacy message focused primarily on the intrinsic value of arts and its ability to transform communities.
Most of the information conveyed was subjective or limited to research conducted by specific arts organizations for their marketing purposes. The organizations, all part of the DC metropolitan region, did not cross jurisdictional boundaries to collaborate as research partners. The Arts & Economic Prosperity (AEP) studies eliminated the regional jurisdictional research barriers.
The Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington connects the six leaders of the arts councils and commissions representing: the District of Columbia; the City of Alexandria in Virginia; Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia; and, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. The arts council and commission leaders meet several times a year under the umbrella of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington to discuss their arts projects, regional arts challenges, and successes.
Before the economic downturn, when local governments had more money, the AEP studies were part of the rationale that the city and council members used to grant millions of dollars to arts organizations that were building new or renovating old venues. Now the data supports the budget decision-making process for the arts and is essential to the vitality of arts programs throughout the region.
Though the arts research is collected separately for each of the six jurisdictions, the regional study that Americans for the Arts prepares for the Greater DC Metropolitan region provides partnership opportunities with the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
The Board of Trade will publish excerpts from AEP IV, in their Greater Washington Initiative’s Annual Report, a resource that assists businesses in making an informal decision about locating or expanding business in Greater Washington. The report is disseminated to businesses throughout the region and beyond, and is used by the elected officials in each jurisdiction to justify their decisions to increase arts budgets.
Documenting the economic impact of arts, creates a platform for the arts in the Washington DC Metropolitan region as a principle component in driving the economy and develops a more comprehensive arts understanding among business and government leaders.