Study: Arts have $85M impact on local economy


FILE PHOTO - People walk past a piece of blown glass artwork from Jon Slade, of Jacksonville, at the 30th Annual Downtown Arts Festival, in Gainesville, Nov. 12, 2011.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 10:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 10:33 p.m.

In a week and a half, a crowd likely to reach 100,000 will flood Gainesville for the 31st annual Downtown Festival & Arts Show.

The popular event — ranked among the nation's best arts shows — is one piece of an arts and cultural scene that pumps some $85.5 million a year into the local economy, according to a recent nationwide study conducted by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit arts advocacy group.

Thirty-one nonprofit arts and cultural groups — a diverse bunch that included multiple University of Florida museums, the Hippodrome Theatre, the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Santa Fe College, the Friends of Paynes Prairie, the Alachua County Historical Commission and a slew of musical and performing arts organizations — provided financial information and survey results on audience and patron spending to the study Arts & Economic Prosperity IV.

“A lot of it confirms what we already know, that this is an important sector of tourism,” said John Pricher, with the Gainesville/Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The nonprofits provided information to Americans for the Arts on their event attendance, payroll expenditures, payments to artists as well as expenses such operational and purchasing costs. Based on that information, the study concluded that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations had a direct economic impact of some $32.3 million annually and supported 754 full-time equivalent jobs.

The impact from the audiences who attend cultural affairs and events — from plays, concerts, museum shows and festivals such as the Downtown Festival & Arts Show and the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire — was even greater: some $53.1 million.

That was based on audience and patron surveys of the money spent at events and at area restaurants, shops and hotels. The survey looked at expenditures on things such as meals, souvenirs, transportation and lodging.

It then used an input-output analysis to look at how many times each dollar spent by these audience members is recirculated in the local economy.

Based on that, it was projected that the money spent by those who attend arts and cultural events plays some role in helping to support 1,590 local jobs.

Currently, a public grants program administered by the city of Gainesville provides approximately $750,000 annually to cultural and arts organizations, including some $425,000 in bed tax revenues.

Russell Etling, Gainesville's Cultural Affairs programs coordinator, said the study showed those grants were a sound investment based on the much larger return to the local economy.

Americans for the Arts conducts its study on the economic impact of arts and cultural organizations once every five years.

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