Sunday, June 25, 2017

Arts Economic Impact Updates from Americans for the Arts and Richard Florida

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on..................."

I.  Americans for the Arts released its 5th Arts and Economic Prosperity Study (Economic impact of the arts and their audiences) at their annual conference in San Francisco last week.

Here are the highlights from Randy Cohen's blog on the report: (I hope the chart below shows up - if not go to Randy's blog to view.)

In 2015, the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated:

  •  $166.3 billion of economic activity—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audience.    The economic impact of this speaks for itself:
  • 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs
  • $27.5 billion in federal, state, and local government revenue
  • $96.1 billion in household income

NOTE:  "Only nonprofit and municipal arts and cultural organizations are included—no for-profit entertainment, like Broadway or motion picture businesses, and no individual artists. Why just nonprofits? Because government and philanthropic dollars are typically directed to these organizations. It is appropriate to ask, “In addition to improving quality of life, what is the economic ROI of that investment?”

4.6 Million Jobs Supported by the Nonprofit Arts

Arts organizations employ builders, web designers, electricians, accountants, printers, and other workers spanning many industries, in addition to artists, curators, musicians, and other arts professionals. Moreover, the AEP5 economic analysis looks at employment beyond those who work for arts organizations. It also captures the jobs supported across the community because of spending by the organizations and their audiences (see the report to get a better understanding of the economic modeling).

$27.5 Billion in Government Revenue

Federal, state, and local governments receive an estimated $27.5 billion in revenue every year because of the economic activity of nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences. This is an outstanding yield given that their collective outlay is about $5 billion. (Small Investment. Big return.)

The revenue back to government generated by arts industry expenditures shows that government arts funding is not a one-way street. Rather, there is a benefit of substantial revenue back to government accompanying the public good that these organizations provide—a fact we should keep in mind when discussing current threats to nonprofit organizations, such as limiting the federal charitable tax deduction, with our elected officials.

With the help of study partners, we collected expenditure and attendance data from 14,439 arts and cultural organizations and 212,691 of their attendees to measure total industry spending. Project economists from the Georgia Institute of Technology customized an input-output analysis model for each study region to provide specific and localized economic impact data."

II.  Also this week, in The Atlantic's City Lab, Richard Florida cites Bureau of Labor Data on Cultural Employment:

"The data is based on arts and culture employment measured by BEA’s Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA). The account produces statistics for “core” arts and cultural activities such as performers, musicians, writers, artists, designers. Also included are managers, agents, and promoters, plus museums, art galleries, historical sites, and nature parks.  Supporting industries such as broadcasters, grant makers, and musical instrument repairers also make the cut.
Across the nation, arts and culture industries employed roughly 1 million Americans in 2014. That’s less than 1 percent of all workers. Performing arts and design services accounted for about three-quarters of employment in core arts and cultural production industries. It’s the creation of new work from related industries that makes the arts such a key way to generate economic growth. Take dance, for example: Dancers are core arts employees, but they also generate the need for workers who make ballet slippers, build theaters and rehearsal studios, or print programs are employed in related support industries.
All that related work adds up. Arts and cultural economic activity accounted for 4.2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), or $729.6 billion in 2014, the latest date for which data is available according to the BEA, growing by roughly 2 percent annually."
His report also includes data tracking and comparing geographic distribution of cultural industry employment impacts.

This is yet more information that may help make the case for the value of the arts whether you are arguing in favor of keeping the NEA or for more local funding.  Go to the sites and use the information relative to your purposes.  And to those for whom more economic arguments on behalf of the arts miss the point of the real (intrinsic) value of the arts to society - I continue to argue that more arrows in our quiver as we make our case for public value and support aren't necessarily a bad thing.

Good luck.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit


  1. The problem with economic arguments for value is that they tend to be zero-sum (if not explicitly then by default). Say we buy in to the idea that the 'real' value of the arts is its economic impact. We take a measure of that impact and the arts are only as important as the effect they have on the economy.

    But what if some competitor for funding and policy does it just that much better? More dollars generated, more jobs stimulated, etc? Isn't that specifically an argument that these other things are MORE worth supporting? If the arts have no value in themselves, isn't it an argument AGAINST the arts that other things may be more worth our time funding and supporting?

    The more we buy in to zero-sum models of value the more we undercut any excuses for a lack of performance in those areas.

    Say sports have a greater impact on the economy and provide more employment, what then? Haven't we simply framed our arguments in a way that has us come out as 'losers'? On what basis are we arguing that the arts are *more* worth supporting than, say, sports? Because if we admit that they are NOT more worth supporting, are we not implying that it makes more sense to support these other things? By our own admission?

    If the economic pie is only so large, are we arguing for our slice merely on the basis that others may be more deserving? If this is an arrow in our quiver, it only seems we are in danger of shooting ourselves in our own foot. If we are in a competition for funds, it is as if we have the strategy of giving our opponents the advantage of admittedly better weapons. We bring a knife to a gunfight. Unless we are the outright winners in a zero-sum scenario we are always fighting at a disadvantage.....

    And the scraps we are given are not because anyone really cares. We have just told them to care more for other things. Rather, the best we can hope for is that they will take pity on us. Is it any coincidence I have heard our advocacy often characterized as a form of begging?

    We can praise our knives and even sharpen them as best we can, but if we are in a gunfight, what exactly are we doing?

    1. Here's the point Carter. No one is suggesting that the economic argument for the value of the arts is THE ONLY argument to make. It is but one argument, and I have suggested, and continue to suggest, that we ought to use ALL the arguments available to us. And that is because one argument might work with one target, and be ignored or dismissed by another. There are decision makers in whose hands our fate lies (at least in terms of public funding support), and while some of them buy into the intrinsic value of the arts argument, they still need some kind of "cover" in order to support us so they have a position to convey to those of their constituents who are opposed to arts funding. The economic argument gives some of them that cover and that makes it easier for them to vote in our favor. Some of them don't care about having cover, and do NOT believe in the intrinsic value of the arts argument, but are at least somewhat swayed by the economic value argument. It doesn't matter if the economic argument is relative or if it is subject to attack as specious or questionable, it is enough for them to justify supporting the arts precisely because there is an argument that the arts are of economic benefit, that they do produce jobs etc.

      Rejecting use of the economic argument in any case at all, when it is either the most persuasive or the only argument some people think valid would be shooting ourselves in the foot. Again, to make the economic argument, doesn't rely on it being a superior argument than the economic value of some other enterprise (e.g., sports). It is enough that it is a valid argument - to whatever extent - on its own. I do not see any validity to your bringing a knife to a gun fight analogy, and even if it were to hold - I think it is better to bring a knife to a gun fight than to bring nothing at all. You seem to be suggesting that the economic argument is counter productive, but all the evidence to date suggests just the opposite.

      I think it incumbent on the arts to use ANY and ALL arguments that might be valid to any of those we are trying to convince - intrinsic, economic or otherwise. I simply don't understand the rejection of the economic argument and the reliance exclusively on the intrinsic value argument. Use them both and more. They are not mutually exclusive.

      Of course the best argument - in political terms - irrespective of what you are arguing for or against - is that you have the votes to kick out those politicians who refuse to support you. The arts have no such clout. If and when they ever garner enough public political support to have those votes, then we won't need any other argument -- not the intrinsic value or the economic value.

      In the meantime, use every argument, every arrow in our quiver, to defend ourselves. That seems to me to be the only smart thing to do.

  2. What you say makes absolute sense, I think. I keep forgetting the important parts of your argument. Doh! Thanks for being so patient and generous in restating what you have already told me a hundred times.

    I guess I just keep forgetting the bigger picture. When we talk specifically about the 'economic argument' I DO understand it has benefits, but I am perhaps overeager to point out its limitations. I guess I am tempted to overreact because the economic argument is so often presented in isolation from this larger context, and it only seems to be portrayed as this magic bullet-- which it is not. My objection is not that the argument doesn't matter, but that we sometimes talk as if nothing else does.

    I guess I am a jilted lover (of other forms of value :) ) and I get jealous of the attention bestowed on something that tends to crowd out what I am interested in. Maybe it is jealousy like being part of a theatre production, and the 'star' gets all the attention, and people talk as if what the star did was the only thing that mattered. Of course it DID matter, but the things crowded out had a part to play as well. The time we spend focusing on the star is time spent ignoring the cast....

    I am trying to understand the production, and I'm tired of endlessly hearing what the star did. "blah, blah, blah." Maybe I can be excused for pointing out the star has a big wart and stinky breath, and blew at least one line in the last scene :)

    1. Carter:
      Your statement:
      "My objection is not that the argument doesn't matter, but that we sometimes talk as if nothing else does."
      is a brilliant framing of the real issue, deserving of debate and discussion in the field. I couldn't agree more. My own feeling is that it all matters, for varying reasons.

      Diane Ragsdale's latest Jumper post on "Art for____________'s sake" is an excellent beginning for that discussion. My question is why do we have to fill in that blank at all. Can't we just end the sentence with a period after the word art? There are as many reasons people create and relate to art as there are artists and those who partake of art. Who is to say which ones are valid and which are not? I'm at a loss to understand why there must be a definitive statement as to the value of arts, and artists.
      You may well be right (and there are many people who agree with you) that there is too much emphasis on the economic value of the arts, and that over-emphasis detracts from our ability to move the public to understand and internalize the value of art for its many other contributions to individuals and to society. But I think we can champion those other values without having to discard any value - economic included. Value, like Beauty may just be in the eye of the beholder.
      Thank you.