The arts are good for the soul and spirit. But they’re also good for the economy – a view newly held on the state level by Gov. Sam Brownback, thank goodness, and underscored locally in an enlightening new report from Americans for the Arts. And in Wichita, the arts are inseparable from downtown revitalization.
The new Arts and Economic Prosperity IV report will be the subject of an event from 7:30 to 9 a.m. today at the Hyatt Regency Wichita and a Wichita City Council workshop this morning featuring Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy at the D.C.-based Americans for the Arts. The report includes information gathered from Wichita and 181 other participating regions in the country. In Wichita, 23 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations provided detailed data to the researchers, and nearly 2,000 audience members were surveyed.
Among the eye-opening numbers in the report:
• Nonprofit arts and culture represented a $66.2 million industry in Wichita in fiscal year 2010, up from $49 million cited in the 2005 report.
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• In 2010, Wichita’s nonprofit arts community supported 2,006 full-time equivalent jobs and generated $50 million in resident household income and $6.5 million in local and state revenue.
• Of the 1.9 million people who attended arts and cultural events in 2010, nearly 26 percent lived outside of Sedgwick County and spent a total $12.6 million beyond the cost of event admission.
And Wichita’s economy is sure to get a special boost in 2012 from two blockbusters with regional drawing power: the exhibition “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination,” which is at Exploration Place through Sept. 3, and the Theatre League of Wichita booking of “Disney’s The Lion King” for Sept. 4-30 at Century II Concert Hall.
“When a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards,” said the report, which found that nonresident attendees nationally spend an average 121 percent more per person than locals.
What’s more, the nonprofit arts sector nationally saw expenditures in 2010 just 3 percent less than in 2005 – not bad at all, given that the economy went off a cliff in 2008 and has struggled since.
In his role as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, is quoted in the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV report calling some states’ decision to decrease arts funding “counterproductive” and calling on states “to continue – and increase – our support for the arts. In today’s competitive marketplace, it has never been truer that supporting the arts means business.”
With city officials looking at a projected deficit of $2.4 million in the 2013 budget, the $3.2 million that the city’s cultural funding program accorded 25 arts organizations last year might loom as a large target for some.
But as the report arms policymakers with evidence of how the arts drive the economy, it should help counter arguments that the arts are fluff unworthy of continued public investment in a time of budget distress.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman