Carol Velasques-Richardson: Yes, the arts do mean business

Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 2:15 a.m.

The great opera singer and longtime cultural leader Beverly Sills famously said, "Art is the signature of civilization." Striking new data is now proving that art is also an essential pillar of our country's economic foundation, as well.

In the Americans for the Arts' recently released Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study of non-profit arts and cultural organizations in 182 regions across the country (including 31 organizations in Alachua County), we find compelling new evidence that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations nationally generate $135.2 billion in economic activity, support 4.1 million full-time equivalent jobs and produce $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state and federal governments.

As reported in the Oct. 3 Gainesville Sun, Alachua County, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations make up an $85.5 million industry; one that supports 2,344 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $7.3 million in local and state government revenue.

By proving that investment in the arts and culture yields economic benefits, the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study lays to rest the misconception that a community supports the arts and culture at the expense of its local economic development. In fact, communities that provide this support not only enhance their citizens' quality of life, but also invest in their fiscal well-being.

The impact of spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations is far-reaching: they pay their employees, purchase supplies and acquire assets within the local community. Additionally, unlike most industries, the nonprofit arts and culture leverage significant event-related spending by their audiences. Whether serving the local community or out-of-town visitors, a vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive.

For those of us who ceaselessly advocate our elected officials to maintain a strong cultural infrastructure, we take pride in Americans for the Arts' President and CEO Robert L. Lynch summary of this landmark study when he said, "The point of the arts is obviously not to create economic impact or jobs; the point is to help us communicate in new ways about what it is like to be human, the good, the painful, the ugly, and the sublime. But isn't it great to know that the arts are also a robust industry that helps fuel America's economy and sustain U.S. jobs?"

On behalf of the Cultural Affairs Board, we would like to thank the city of Gainesville and the City Commission, Alachua County and its Board of Commissioners and the Visitors and Convention Bureau for the contributions they continue to make by supporting cultural grants programs that provide vitally needed resources to this important business sector. We congratulate them for recognizing that this investment not only fosters beauty, creativity and spiritual well-being, but also enforces economic development, the creation of jobs, the generation of tax revenue and our attractiveness as a destination for tourists and new industries.

Carol Velasques-Richardson is chair of the Gainesville-Alachua County Cultural Affairs Board.

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