The economic benefit of the arts

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 188 views 

Civic leaders increasingly recognize that the arts, creative place-making and arts tourism not only provide social and cultural benefits to our community but economic benefits as well.

We need only look at the bustle and vibrancy of the Argenta Arts District and Little Rock’s Main Street Creative Corridor to know there is civic buy-in and by concentrating efforts each city increases community engagement in arts events and cultural activities.

Local investment in arts, culture and tourism help to revitalize neighborhoods, attracting people, jobs and residents to previously neglected urban areas. By investing in art we are expanding the vitality of the area, increasing quality of life and solidifying our sense of cultural identity.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson in his radio address in May stated “the Arkansas Arts Council estimates that $106 million was spent in our state last year thanks to the arts. That spending supported more than 3,000 full-time jobs and generated more than $11 million for local and state governments. It’s an incredible return on investment for Arkansas.”

The National Governors Association in their report Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development puts the creative industry as Arkansas’ third largest employer. It is pretty hard to overlook the significance that the creative economy has in this state and how important it is for us to support it with our participation.

A question that is often asked: How can we attract and retain businesses and keep talented people in Arkansas? Arts and Culture plays a vital role.

Rebecca Ryan, a guru at helping communities develop strategies on reaching and retaining talent, said, “Knowledge workers – the people who solve problems for a living, start new companies, and bring new ideas to market – rely on their communities’ arts and culture scene to recharge their intellectual and innovation battery. In this way, Arts = Economic Development.”

We need to expand the variety of our creative offerings, increase awareness to the benefits of artistic expression and promote easy access to art and cultural opportunities. By investing in creative corridors and arts festivals we increase art/cultural tourism.

We, as a community, attract people from outside the area to spend time here and harness the discretionary spending of our local residents. Visitors not only spend money on events themselves but eat at local restaurants, drink in the watering holes, stay in hotels any shop in our stores.

According to American for the Arts “Arts & Economic Prosperity IV” arts tourists stay longer and spend twice as much as the average traveler. All of this helps drive the local economy.

When you foster collaboration and connection by bringing together the major arts anchors, local and state governments and an engaged public, you create a unique environment for creativity, expression and community renewal.