Proving the Economic Power of Local Arts Agencies

Posted by Theresa Cameron On July - 13 - 2012

Theresa Cameron

Well its official, our Local Arts Agency Blog Salon (catch up and read all of the posts with that one easy link) was a home run!

We heard from more than 20 bloggers representing all parts of our great nation about ways communities and their arts economic development strategies are being harnessed to create the 21st century creative community.

This week, bloggers have given very specific examples of how having the right message and the right data can help propel a community forward. The arts at the local level are being taken seriously because of the data, the stats, and the vision.

We all know that the arts are very important for many reasons but it was particularly interesting to hear from bloggers about how having the right data can get you a seat at the table to make your case.

In particular, it was interesting to learn from the corporate side about how to present arts and economic impact data to corporate funders—and that there are many layers of messengers before the data gets to the CEO—and that doing your homework will help you overcome the objections and obstacles with that potential funder.

I loved seeing the photograph of the Mona Lisa on the dollar bill from The Omaha World-Herald.

And what about Boise? Who knew that Boise is the most geographically-isolated urban area in the lower 48 and that the arts infrastructure has helped shape the city create a haven for arts organizations?

So, many thanks to our wonderful, diverse group of bloggers. They are the “rock stars” of using the research and data to shift ways community leaders are thinking and using the arts as a local development strategy!

A quartet plays as part of Beet Street’s Streetmosphere summer program.

It seems like the arts are finally gaining some traction—the whole country is paying attention to arts as an economic driver.

The National Governors Association just released a great new study that identifies five tactics for using arts, culture, and the creative industry as economic development tools.

They are actually encouraging state governments to include the arts and creative businesses in their economic development strategies, providing new incentives and programs that can help our industry grow and finally be counted for the incredible impact we have on the economy.

Here in Fort Collins, our community has embraced the notion that our community is better because of its arts for years. We have won numerous nationwide awards including Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live.” The awards are due the incredible quality of life we enjoy—thanks in large part to the many artists and arts organizations who make our whole town buzz with activity and creativity.

Last year, Fort Collins was also awarded the 2011 Governor’s Arts Award by Colorado Creative Industries and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade that recognizes a Colorado community for their collective efforts to enhance their community and their economy through strategic use of the arts.

What helped set the stage for the Governor’s Award included the Downtown Development Authority’s formulation of Beet Street in 2007 and the adoption of the City of Fort Collins Cultural Plan by the Fort Collins City Council in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

OR: Building a Case as Portland Prepares to Vote on Arts Funding

Posted by Jeff Hawthorne On July - 13 - 2012

Jeff Hawthorne

The Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report comes at an interesting time for Portland as we prepare to launch a campaign for a transformational arts funding measure that’s headed for the November ballot.

If approved by voters in November, a new income tax capped at $35 per person will raise $12 million per year to support arts organizations and arts education in the City of Portland. Specifically, the measure would restore 65 arts specialists in elementary schools and allow our local arts agency to provide general operating support for about 50 leading arts organizations at a rate of at least five percent of their operating budgets. (Our largest organizations currently receive about one percent of their budgets from local public support).

The measure would also help our Regional Arts & Culture Council set up a fund to increase access to arts and culture, specifically within communities of color and underserved neighborhoods.

The Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) is leading this initiative, and even the most recent polls have been strong, earning 75 percent approval of the actual ballot language among likely voters; we are cautiously optimistic about our chances for success.

However, inexplicably, our local newspaper recently published an appallingly ignorant editorial that dismisses the notion of public funding for the arts, and value of arts education in particular. We’re not quite sure what rock they’ve been living under, but we know they don’t represent the opinion of the vast majority of Portland residents. The letter writing campaign to enlighten them has begun! (Thank you, Bob Lynch, for your letter.)

We’ve also done polling to make sure we understand which messages are most likely to resonate with the voters, and we found that economic impact was not very high on the list. The fact that our local arts organizations constitute a $253 million industry, supporting 8,529 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $21 million in state and local government revenue was deemed “persuasive” by slightly less than half of the likely voters we surveyed. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts at the Core of a Growing North Dakota Community

Posted by Terri Aldrich On July - 13 - 2012

My community (Minot, ND) is in a very unusual position.

In 2011, a 500-year flood devastated our community and displaced 12,000 residents (nearly one-third of our population). This week marked the one-year anniversary of the evacuation sirens and many homes have yet to be “mucked out.”

On the other hand, the oil industry here has created a growing economy, increasing our tax revenue and boosting airport boardings to record levels. Our airline traffic has increased from four flights daily to 18. We have had growth and devastation all in the same year.

During the time, Minot arts organizations and artists have helped to raise funds, raise spirits, and raise awareness. Our Fifth Annual Integrity Jazz Festival is a perfect example. Sponsors from the community stepped up to the plate to present this event free of charge to the public in cooperation with the Weekend of Hope, a celebration of a community rebuilding. Survey responses indicated that 30 percent of our attendees came from outside Minot. They bought food, gasoline, and artwork, putting dollars into our local economy while hearing some great jazz music in a beautiful outdoor setting.

The evidence of the economic impact of the nonprofit arts industry in Minot is detailed in the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV) data. The nonprofit arts industry has a $9.9 million impact that supports 225 full-time equivalent jobs. That number represents an increase of $1.4 million from the 2005 AEP III data! Read the rest of this entry »

Economic Data Provides the Base for Public and Private Sector Advocacy

Posted by Jennifer Cover Payne On July - 12 - 2012

Jennifer Cover Payne

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Are We Actually Underestimating the True Value of the Arts?

Posted by Tom Bensen On July - 12 - 2012

Tom Bensen

Like so many of my colleagues across the county, I eagerly awaited the results of Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, and when the initial results arrived, I started meeting with community leaders to help spread the word, get their insights, and in a few cases, a juicy quote for a PowerPoint presentation.

I expected several folks, particularly those who support the arts in our community, to be impressed by the numbers and totally supportive of the study. They did not disappoint.

I also wanted to get the reaction from local economists, those who know more than the rest of us about these kinds of studies, but this also made me nervous. What I feared was a response along the lines of “You really don’t know what you’re talking about.” Or, “Why don’t you all just focus on art and we’ll deal with the economy.”

Because we are in the business of advocating for the arts, I was afraid that this study would be criticized for overstating our case, that we’re all just pumping up the numbers to make us look good and to justify our existence.

So I was not prepared for this criticism from Larry Swanson, director and chief economist for the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana in Missoula:

“It is difficult to truly gauge how the arts benefit a community and area economic vitality by only looking at expenditures tied to non-profit arts organizations, even though these are important. Communities that are well-endowed in the arts are more vibrant and interesting places and tend to attract more educated and talented people who, once they make your community theirs, contribute in many other ways to area economic vitality. They first add to the area work force and to area economic activity and production, but they also buy homes and other area goods and services, they use area healt care, they send their children to our schools, and contribute in a variety of other ways to area economies. So, it becomes very difficult to fully gauge the importance of the arts to area economic growth and vitality, simply by looking at yearly expenditures by arts organizations and by patrons of the arts attending events.”  Read the rest of this entry »

For Lee County, Economic Impact Data is a Homerun for the Arts

Posted by Lydia Antunes Black On July - 12 - 2012

Lydia Black

The Southwest Florida nonprofit arts community has always argued the economic and social value of the arts community. We’ve advocated on behalf of our creative community; engaged the public in conversations about the depth and breadth of our cultural offerings; boasted large attendance numbers; and, painted a picture of arts as placemakers and the heart and soul of community.

And until recently, we advocated for the arts by estimating economic impact numbers, by supposing that indeed there was an economic impact. Our advocacy lacked the confidence that would have been buttressed by language informed by hard data. Well not anymore.

With the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study in hand, we can definitively say that our arts and culture industry is an economic and social powerhouse. In 2010, during arguably the worst economy in recent memory, Lee County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $68 million, supported more than 2,000 full-time jobs, and pumped $9 million into local and state coffers.

For a county that speaks the language of baseball, that number is more than the estimated $45–50 million generated here by the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins, combined.

Many in the cultural community have lamented the fact that the arts industry is always justifying its existence to state and local officials in return for small investment dollars. Yet, at the same time, many of us in the arts community were doing nothing to change our language to that which public officials and business leaders could relate—namely dollars, jobs, and return on investment.

The economic impact study results have already helped to shift the discussion of the arts industry from one of entertainment, education, and inspiration to one of the arts industry as an integral economic engine in the county. Read the rest of this entry »

San Jose: The Arts at the Heart of Economic and Cultural Development

Posted by Kerry Adams-Hapner On July - 12 - 2012

Kerry Adams-Hapner

Let me begin by saying this: art is at the heart of everything we do. Preserving, advancing, and celebrating culture and expression is our fundamental mission here in San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA).

We strategically position that mission to align with economic development goals, which is authentic to our city’s culture and climate, benefits the sector and enables us to advance our core mission. I don’t have that “intrinsic” versus “instrumental” debate; intrinsic impact is a foregone conclusion for me and the economic benefits enable strategic alignment, a.k.a. partnerships and resources.

In San Jose, the OCA is a division of the Office on Economic Development. I am both the Director of Cultural Affairs and a Deputy Director of Economic Development. Recognizing that a vibrant community attracts talent, and talent attracts companies, our economic development strategy fosters the vital cycle between cultural development (the arts), workforce development (the people), and business development (the companies).

We fulfill our cultural development goals through three primary strategies: attracting and retaining destination quality events; promoting high quality public art and placemaking; and providing arts industry support.

We foster the arts industry through nonprofit grants and support, cultural facility management, and support for creative entrepreneurs—comprised of artists and the commercial creative sector. Each function has its inherent, intrinsic cultural value—celebrating heritage, creativity, and the arts. And yet, we celebrate and amplify the economic side of these functions—culture as a catalyst for business through the nonprofit and commercial industries.It is also a means of building a sense and brand of place, a magnet to attract other industries. Read the rest of this entry »

Documenting the Return On Our Investments

Posted by Robert Bush On July - 11 - 2012

Robert Bush

We love data at the Arts & Science Council (ASC).

We are fortunate to have access to resources, but we also have to make choices about how we direct them to support the sector, and research pays off every time. It allows us to connect with donors, elected officials, the chamber of commerce, and others about the impact of programs and services, as well as economic development efforts.

We are also fortunate to have the resources to commission research. For 10 years we have done a public opinion telephone survey through the Urban Institute at UNC-Charlotte. Since 2006, we have worked with WESTAF on the Creative Vitality™ Index; but, our biggest research partner has been and continues to be Americans for the Arts. Whether it is annual local arts agency surveys, past salary surveys, or United Arts Fund surveys, we fill them out.

While we love all of our partners, the most important (and requested) research we share with stakeholders is the results of our Arts & Economic Prosperity economic impact study conducted every five years.

Yes, it requires staff time to remind and nudge, coordinate audience intercept surveys, and make certain that every local cultural group had the opportunity to participate. Thanks to the vision of the North Carolina Arts Council, beginning with Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, we have statewide data and information on each of the regional economic development areas of the state.

You may think, those people in Charlotte have more money than sense to be investing in all this data, but this data gets us noticed—by donors, corporations, elected officials, chambers of commerce, and the list goes on.

I believe in art for art’s sake but I also know that numbers matter—balanced budgets, profits, and attendance figures to name a few. They help us tell our story in terms that people can understand. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Present Arts & Economic Impact Data to Corporate Funders

Posted by Julie Muraco On July - 11 - 2012

Julie Muraco

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV is another seminal piece of research by the Americans for the Arts staff led by Randy Cohen. (Okay, so I am biased). But, passion for the arts runs throughout our organization. I hope to provide insight into how AEP IV might be used with corporate funding sources.

How to Use AEP IV with Corporate Funders: What Do the Numbers Mean?

It is probably a revelation to most corporate funders that the arts & culture industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity, supports 4.1 million jobs, and generates an aggregate $22.3 billion in government revenue.

Some corporate funders may not be looking at how arts & culture within their community support their own business revenues or government revenues with expenditures on snacks and refreshments (think restaurants and restaurant suppliers), lodging (resorts or hospitality industries), transportation (buses/taxis), or retail establishments with shopping from clothing to gifts for home.

Corporate funders need to be shown the light. And if it is anything like corporations I have worked for, what turns the light on in corporations are numbers and quantitative data. Why?

Whoever you have approached with the data needs to deliver it to someone else, who will then deliver it to another layer of management, and so on before a decision is made. That includes the CEO.

But, may I clarify a point about “corporate funders?” It is no longer just a decision made in the executive suite with the CEO or CFO of the company. A “corporate funder” decision-maker might be found within the sales and marketing, human resources, or corporate communications departments. The numbers and the rationale for funding arts organizations based on the data needs to resonate with all of these people. Read the rest of this entry »

Olga Garay

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Mayors’ Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative received in 2009, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA/LA) launched the planning stages for the “Broadway Arts Center” (BAC).

Envisioned as a mixed-use affordable artists’ housing, performance/exhibition space, educational facility, and creative commercial center, and located in the Historic Broadway Theater District in downtown Los Angeles, the birthplace of vaudeville and cinema in the city, the BAC has been embraced by city government and the arts community alike.

In spite of its rich history and tremendous future potential, Broadway is currently viewed as not meeting its potential in a number of different ways. Broadway bustles during the day, but merchants are struggling with a 15–20 percent ground floor vacancy rate. This ground floor struggle is made worse when viewed in the context of more than a million square feet of vacant space in the upper floors along Broadway.

And while some theatres have been reactivated, most of the glorious historic theaters do not offer regular entertainment programming, and Broadway doesn’t serve the needs of the diverse downtown community—especially at night. DCA/LA strongly believes that this situation will quickly turn around when a cadre of artists, professors, and college students, living and working in the area, make Downtown their home.

Led by DCA/LA, the core project team includes the City Planning Department’s Urban Design Studio and Bringing Back Broadway, a 10-year initiative to revitalize the historic Broadway corridor.

Nonprofit partners include The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, a service organization dedicated to creating affordable housing for performing arts professionals; Artspace, the country’s premier organization dedicated to developing affordable spaces for artists and arts organizations; Local Initiative Support Corporation, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofit community development organizations transform neighborhoods; and the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts), an award-winning higher education institution dedicated to training and nurturing the next generation of professional artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Boise: “The Athens of the Desert” Continues to Prosper

Posted by Terri Schorzman On July - 11 - 2012

Terri Schorzman

Boise is the most geographically isolated urban area in the lower 48. Despite this remote location, Boise residents have built a cultural infrastructure through forming community, regional, and national alliances. In turn, this infrastructure has helped shape Boise.

From Boise’s earliest days, the logistics of the city’s geographic isolation made it difficult to travel elsewhere for cultural amenities, which encouraged residents to develop local opera, ballet, orchestra, theater, and dance companies. By 1907, the city’s cultural life inspired attorney Clarence Darrow, here for a trial, to name Boise the “Athens of the Desert.”

In the past decade city leaders have encouraged Boise to “become the most livable city in the country” and in 2008 formed the Department of Arts & History from its predecessor the Boise City Arts Commission. This initiative illustrates that Boise’s leaders recognize the relationship between culture, economy, and livability.

Boise is fortunate that city leaders include arts and culture in discussion of the local economy, acknowledging that a robust creative economy is essential to the economic health of Boise. The city participated in Arts & Economic Prosperity II, III, and IV. The data from the earlier studies (II and III) provided the basis for the mayor and city council to award the Mayor’s Cultural Economic Development grants to several organizations in 2010 and 2011, a significant effort given the economic recession nationwide.

City leaders identified funding—generated by the rental of city rail property for two years—to cultural organizations that have an on-going positive impact on Boise’s economy. The funds made a big difference to these organizations, and helped at least two of them meet their budget for the year. In addition, one organization was designated the city’s first-ever Cultural Ambassador. Read the rest of this entry »

Buddy Palmer

I’m a fortunate community arts executive. I direct an organization, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham, which supports a vibrant ecosystem in the largest city, and cultural capital, of Alabama. Just a few years ago, in a public gathering, our former governor recognized Birmingham’s cultural sector as the region’s second greatest asset, just behind the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the state’s largest employer with a giant, nationally-recognized network of hospital and healthcare resources.

Birmingham lost one nonprofit contemporary art gallery in the recession; however, I am proud to say most of our organizations are being extremely resourceful at doing more with less. As nonprofits, we’re used to it, right?

And I’ve just received great news: the results of our local Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study show a more than 50 percent increase in annual economic impact from the data collected five years ago. We had an 80 percent survey-return rate from our organizations as compared with the national average of 43 percent. So, our cultural leaders are enthusiastic, capable, and determined to demonstrate our value.

We also have some important and encouraging signs as we move forward. The City of Birmingham is in the process of creating its first comprehensive plan in 50 years, and arts and entertainment tactics have been included in the area of “Prosperity and Opportunity” as well as “Housing, Neighborhoods, and Community Renewal.”

Perhaps even more significant, “Blueprint Birmingham,” a recently published economic-growth-strategy document commissioned by the Birmingham Business Alliance, our regional economic development authority, identifies “Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism” as one of only seven target sectors with the greatest potential for new job creation, retention of existing jobs, and overall wealth creation in the region. This recognition of the cultural sector as an engine for both community and economic development, when coming from unusual suspects, is a sure sign of progress. Read the rest of this entry »

Hartford: City/Arts Council Partnership Creates Jobs

Posted by Cathy Malloy On July - 10 - 2012

Cathy Malloy

One of our favorite catchphrases is “the arts are the backbone of our region.” And that is especially true of the City of Hartford, where arts, heritage, and cultural organizations are so ingrained in the local economy.

They are a primary driver of tourism, welcome millions of visitors each year, and support hundreds and hundreds of jobs; the arts have a huge impact on the service sectors—like restaurants, parking lots and small businesses—that depend on an influx of patrons from the surrounding suburbs.

Without the arts, Hartford would be just another commuter town, a nine to five destination for state and city employees.

The best illustration of the importance of the arts to the city’s economy is the Hartford Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant Program, one of the many grants initiatives managed and administered by the Greater Hartford Arts Council. These grants are a partnership between the City of Hartford and the Arts Council, and are specifically designed to really quantify and measure the impact of arts, heritage, and cultural programming on the city’s “bottom line,” and to show how a vibrant arts community can generate jobs and play a vital role in redefining the urban environment.

Since 2009, the city has invested over $2 million in arts programming, events, and micro-enterprise businesses in the arts—everyone from graphic designers to local vendors providing much-needed services to artists living and working in Hartford.

The program has seen tremendous success, generating almost $4.5 million in economic activity and, most importantly, supporting dozens of full and part-time jobs. “Job creation” initiatives have certainly become the latest national craze, and this program has a three-year track record of creating and supporting jobs through the arts—a testament to the impact of the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Westchester: Net Worth vs. Net Value

Posted by Janet Langsam On July - 10 - 2012

Janet Langsam

Here in Westchester (NY), when we talk about the arts and the economy, we have a great story to tell. Working with Americans for the Arts, we have done successive reports every five years since 1995, building our economic impact to $156 million, with some 4,800 jobs.

It is a daunting task reaching out to 150 affiliates, begging data from overworked colleagues, doing live interviews with arts-goers and culling the information; but we do it because it is the single most important tool in our advocacy arsenal.

As an internal document, the report becomes our barometer; we know those are the numbers we have to beat in the next report. As an external document, it gets the attention of thought leaders in our community and perks up the ears of our legislators. It has also built broad community support. In a quick (and not so dirty) community SWOT analysis last year, 95 percent responded that the arts are important to Westchester’s economy.

Yet, as most arts councils, we struggle with the “conversation”—that is, how we talk about the value of the arts in tandem with this “dollars and cents” version of our net worth.

To help us shape the “net value” conversation, we developed a “Why Do the Arts Matter?” series of ads, featuring prominent business leaders saying things like:

“Art has the power to bring people together—especially at a time when every effort is being made to divide people in the world” Read the rest of this entry »