The arts are thriving in Wichita, according to a recently released study – and that’s not just a feel-good story.
The arts and culture industry in Wichita injects $94.7 million into the local economy, according to Americans for the Arts’ Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study. That ranks the city No. 1 in the state by a large margin – the next-closest area was Douglas County, which was reported at just over $30 million.
In general, Wichita ranked above the national and regional median in nearly every quantifiable statistic.
John D’Angelo, director of the city’s Division of Arts and Cultural Services, said the goal of the study is to provide elected officials hard data and numbers to consider when making decisions.
“It’s important to make sure that the conversations about art don’t just simply focus on the intrinsic value of it, but that it also focuses on the true business side of what the arts brings to communities,” D’Angelo said.
“The timing’s really great for us here in Wichita, with all that’s going on and the discussions that are going on,” he said, referring to the debate over what to do with Century II.
The study, which analyzed 341 different cities or counties in the United States, found that nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.3 billion. Americans for the Arts asked local arts organizations for expense and revenue reports and also surveyed event attendees on their arts-related spending.
Americans for the Arts performs the study every five years, and this data is based on fiscal year 2015.
In Wichita, 34 nonprofit organizations – such as Music Theatre Wichita, Tallgrass Film Association, Wichita Festivals and Botanica – participated.
Here are five facts from the study:
▪ Wichita’s arts and culture industry grew exponentially from 2010 to 2015. Wichita’s arts and culture industry was reported at $94.7 million in 2015 – which includes the 34 arts organizations’ expenditures and spending by audiences. That’s a significant increase from 2010, when it was reported at $66.1 million. More organizations participated in the survey in 2015, which could possibly skew those numbers up slightly, but D’Angelo said he thinks that number is still below what the city actually produces.
“To be honest with you, that probably is still conservative, because there were 34 organizations that participated, and there’s 40-plus that we reached out to, but some couldn’t,” D’Angelo said.
▪ It’s tough to compare Wichita to other cities. Different cities are measured differently in the survey. For example, studies in Tulsa and Des Moines included a multi-county region around the city – the study lists the “greater Tulsa region” as having a population of 1.18 million people, while Tulsa proper has a population under 400,000. Logically, those regions with greater populations report more spending.
Here’s how similarly-sized cities fared, based on populations reported in the study:
Wichita (population 388,413): $94.7 million
Springfield, Mo. (population 165,378): $26.9 million
Lincoln, Neb. (population 272,996): $99 million
Tampa, Fla. (population 358,699): $349.2 million
▪ Most attendees at arts events are Wichitans. According to the survey, 77.7 percent of audiences at arts/cultural events in Wichita were from Sedgwick County, and 22.3 percent were from outside the county. Thirty-six percent of locals said they would travel to another city to attend a similar event. That means if Wichita fails to provide arts and cultural experiences, it will lose out on money from out-of-town guests and locals who would drive elsewhere to spend their money.
▪ Out-of-town visitors are coming to Wichita specifically for arts and cultural events. Of those visitors who were surveyed, 57.6 percent said they came specifically for that event. Also, according to the survey, 46 percent of out-of-town visitors surveyed said they would have traveled to another community to attend a similar event. That means Wichita’s arts and cultural organizations are driving tourism to the city, the study concludes, and audiences would likely travel elsewhere if Wichita did not have the event.
“The same excitement we have centered around the NCAA coming here, and all those people coming to our community and leaving some dollars here? Well, look at what the arts doing on an annual basis,” D’Angelo said.
▪ Wichita’s arts and culture industry spends and makes far more on the arts than the regional and national median. Wichita’s arts culture industry produces $94.7 in expenditures, sustains 2,841 full-time-equivalent jobs and provides $9.5 million in local and state taxes.
The regional median (cities with a population of 250,000 to 499,999) is $88.3 million in expenditures, 2,844 full-time-equivalent jobs and $7.8 million in taxes.
The national median is $35.8 million in expenditures, 1,131 full-time-equivalent jobs and $3.4 million in taxes.
For the raw data of the study, visit www.americansforthearts.org/economicimpact.
Wichita organizations surveyed include the following: American Guild of Organists, Wichita Chapter; Arts Council; Arts Partners; Ballet Wichita; Botanica; Chamber Music at the Barn; City of Wichita Division of Arts and Cultural Services; CreativeRush; Exploration Place; Fisch Bowl; Griots Storytelling Institute; Harvester Arts; Kansas Aviation Museum; Mid-America All-Indian Center; Museum of World Treasures; Music Theatre for Young People; Music Theatre Wichita; Old Cowtown Museum; Opera Kansas; Sedgwick County Zoological Society; South Central Kansas SmorgasChorus; Sweet Adelines International Emerald City Chorus; Tallgrass Film Association; Ulrich Museum of Art; Wichita Art Museum; Wichita Blues Society; Wichita Chamber Chorale; Wichita Children’s Theatre; Wichita Choral Society; Wichita Festivals; Wichita Grand Opera; Wichita Public Library Foundation; Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum Association; and Wichita Symphony Society.
Americans for the Arts visit
What: Randy Cohen, vice-president of research and policy with Americans for the Arts, will visit Wichita on Monday to discuss his organization’s findings in its Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study.
When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mon.
Where: The Hudson, 508 S. Commerce