Everybody who has thought about it knows that the arts—visual and performing—are big business in the Sarasota community. The arts are Sarasota County’s fifth largest economic sector with nearly 1,700 arts-related businesses and 6,200+ people employed. To put that in context, that’s a hundred or so more than the total of those employed in Sarasota County’s nursing and residential care facilities (6,017)—remember that Sarasota County is statistically the oldest large county in the United States. The local economic impact of the arts on our economy is around $123 million annually. The cultural tourism driven by Florida arts organizations—7 million out-of-state visitors annually—draws in $4.5 billion and creates 103,000+ full time jobs carrying $2.6 billion in payroll.1 This year, Donald Grimes and George Fulton of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy submitted their comprehensive 2009-2010 Economic Outlook for Sarasota County2 to the County’s Board of Commissioners. The study cited the performing arts as particularly vital. “In fact,” the Grimes and Fulton study reports, “Sarasota’s employment in these industries is nearly as large a share of total employment as in New York County, New York, better known as Manhattan.”
What does this mean for you?
The artistic and cultural organizations of greater Sarasota have a significant impact on you whether you patronize them or not. Even if you don’t know Lohengrin from Lowenbrau, the arts make the community you live in more vibrant, more interesting, and more prosperous. That’s because of something called cultural tourism. In Sarasota County, nearly half of the people who attend arts and cultural events are non-residents, and many of them come to greater Sarasota rather than Tampa or Panama City specifically for the arts. That’s tourist dollars pumped into our local economy! In addition to the cost of admission tickets, each person spends an average of $21.75 per event.3 So Sarasotans enjoy the impact of those expenditures, as well, by way of more employment, a broader tax base, fewer of your neighbors requiring public assistance, more earned income, and more purchasing power in the community to drive the economy.
Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences.4 But don’t take our word for it. You can calculate your favorite arts organization’s economic impact yourself using the handy impact calculator by clicking HERE.
So what does our community look like without the arts?
Well, first, take away the high-paying and high skill jobs the arts provide. Then eliminate a lot of the professional careers in the area—financial and insurance services, architects, the CPAs and attorneys and bankers who serve those professionals—because highly educated people use the availability of a diverse arts environment as a criterion for where they want to work. Suddenly we’re down not just the $123 million in arts payroll, we’re missing the revenues from all those salaries, commissions, fees, and billable hours. Even if we were willing to give up the depth and richness, the entertainment and excitement, the sense of community and humanity the arts infuse into our lives every day, we couldn’t afford to ignore the arts.
Don’t you already support the arts with your taxes?
Yes, but not as much as you used to. The State of Florida has long recognized the importance of the arts as an economic engine. As recently as 2007, Florida allocated $43.6 million to support arts organizations, understanding the terrific punch they give to our economy. But the Florida budget for the arts has been slashed repeatedly in the past three years. The current budget allocates only $2.8 million for all arts statewide.5 The arts and cultural attractions of the Sarasota community can’t keep that economic ship sailing if there is no wind in the sails.
Did you know the tickets you buy to our performing arts events cover 30-50 percent of costs of production? That’s not overhead, like salaries, utilities, etc., but it is a primary source of revenue for these organizations. But there’s still that 50-70 percent plus overhead to be raised. Where does that come from?
Business = Cultural Arts
Take a quick look at the program or Web site of your favorite Sarasota area arts or cultural organization. You’re going to see our corporate neighbors listed prominently and high up the sponsorship/donor rolls. You’ll see, for example, that:
- Arts Center of Sarasota has 13 corporate sponsors
- Arts Center of Manatee has 11 corporate sponsors this season
- Sarasota Ballet of Florida has 9 corporate sponsors
- Sarasota Orchestra has 26, a tie with Van Wezel at 26 corporate sponsors
What more can you do?
First, continue to make the arts a part of your life. As we noted above, the tickets you buy pay for 30-50 percent of the costs of production. So, continue to patronize our arts organizations. You get the added value of the concert, play, exhibition, or activity at the same time you’re helping to feed the economic engine that is the Arts in the Sarasota community.
Second, patronize the companies who sponsor or contribute to your favorite arts/cultural organization. The companies who provide their support to arts organizations also provide you with products and services you use every day. Say thank you to them by becoming their customer.
Third, you might make a tax-deductible contribution to your favorite arts organization.
Support them—and support the businesses who support them—and your life here on the Suncoast will be richer both culturally and economically.
Finally, encourage others to visit! We have one of the most impressive cultural arts community in the U.S., per capita. Tell friends and family outside our region that they've got to come here to see and enjoy it first-hand!
Check out these links for more information:
1. Sarasota County Arts Council.
2. Grimes and Fulton. The Economic Outlook for Sarasota County in 2009-2010.
3. Arts and Economic Prosperity III: The Economic Impact of NonProfit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences (Spring 2009).
5. Sarasota Herald Tribune, 8 May 2009.
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