Report: Arts and culture activity grows in Arkansas, nationwide

by Jennifer Joyner (JJoyner@nwabj.com) 343 views 

Arts and cultural economic activity rose 4.9% nationwide between 2014 and 2015, reaching $763.6 billion and accounting for 4.2% of the GDP, according to a report published Tuesday (March 6) by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The numbers are adjusted for inflation, according to the bureau. That compares with a 0.4% increase in 2014, the first year in which the BEA released data.

In Arkansas, arts and culture economic activity accounted for $2.8 billion and 2.3% of the GDP, and it showed a 2.1% year-over-year increase. Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director Todd Herman said boosts to the economy from arts and cultural business are “ancillary,” never a focus for the Little Rock-based arts center.

“All arts organizations are able to benefit from the recognition that the arts are important to any city and state and have a real, dollars-and-cents impact on the community,” Herman said in a recent interview regarding a planned $70 million expansion and renovation of the Arkansas Arts Center.  “The primary issue is just the love of the arts and the art center in this community. … The driving force behind the expansion is the community getting behind what we offer and wanting a facility that matches the programs and the quality of collection.”

Little Rock voters in February 2016 approved using revenue from a 2% tax on lodging to benefit the Arkansas Arts Center, the surrounding MacArthur Park and the nearby Arkansas Military Museum. Construction is planned to begin fall 2019 and conclude in 2022, according to the arts center.

Herman said he sees the arts center as the hub for cultural activity in Little Rock, connecting the cultural nodes throughout the downtown area. He said the newly renovated arts center, in addition to the new Murphy Arts District in the southern Arkansas town of El Dorado and other additions to the arts offerings in the state draw attention and build on a reputation for “high-quality arts organizations,” bolstered by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

MIXED DATA ON JOBS, WAGES
While arts economic activity increased in 2015 in Arkansas, employment and compensation showed slight declines of 1.1% and 0.8%, respectively. The state’s arts and cultural production industries provided 33,923 jobs, according to the report, and accounted for a total compensation of $1.5 billion, and while core arts and cultural production employment and compensation were up 3.7% and 6.8%, respectively, the average was dragged down by a downward trend within the supporting arts and cultural production industries that year, according to BEA.

Arts and cultural employment nationwide increased 2.1%, with 4.9 million jobs. Employment increased in 37 states, and the percent change in arts and cultural employment across all states ranged from 5.5% in Georgia to a 3.4% decline in Oklahoma.

In terms of activity, core arts and cultural production industries, including performing arts, design services, fine arts education and education services, rose 8.9% in Arkansas, and supporting industries rose 0.7%.

Information services was the leading contributor to nationwide growth in economic activity in 2015. Core arts and cultural production industries increased 4.9%. Supporting arts and cultural production industries, including art support services and information services, increased 4.8%.

Arts and cultural economic activity rose in 45 states, according to the report. The percent change in value added in arts and cultural industries across all states ranged from 12.6% in Missouri to a 5.9% decline in Kansas.

PERFORMING, FINE ARTS GAINS
On a national level, real value added from the performing arts rose 6.2% in 2015, after increasing 4.6% the previous year. The category includes performing arts companies, promoters, artists, writers, agents and managers and performers. The increase was primarily attributed to an increase in independent artists, writers and performers, according to the bureau. For design services, which include seven industries ranging from advertising to all other design services, real value added increased 6.7% in 2015, after increasing 5.6%. The leading contributor to the increase was architectural services, which increased 10%.

Fine arts education services increased 2.4% in 2015, after increasing 5.1%, and overall education services decreased 0.2% in 2015, after increasing 1.7%, according to BEA.

In Arkansas, fine arts education services increased by 0.02%, and overall education services increased 0.06% during the period.

The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has announced expansion of its arts programs, especially its graduate programs, with the announced establishment of the School of Art this past August and the addition of a master’s degree in graphic design.

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