Arts: Good for the Soul, Good for the Economy [VIDEO]
New study shows Alexandria's arts community is a big driver of economic growth.
The arts have a reputation for contributing to inspiration and innovation but when it comes to balancing a budget, the arts also have the right equation, according to new data released Tuesday.
Randy Cohen, a vice president with Washington, DC-based Americans for the Arts, outlined that the arts mean business to an enthusiastic crowd at the Little Theatre of Alexandria.
Arts and culture are a significant industry in the City of Alexandria—generating nearly $71 million in total economic activity and supporting 1,774 full-time jobs in fiscal year 2010, he said.
“The arts are not just food for the soul but putting food on the table,” Cohen said.
Alexandria participated as one of 182 regions in “Arts & Economics: Prosperity IV,” a study documenting the economic impact of nonprofits arts and culture sector in 139 cities and counties.
Spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Alexandria totaled $26.1 million during FY2010.
“This spending is far reaching: organizations pay employees, purchase supplies, contract for services and acquire assets within their communities,” according to the report.
Arts audiences in Alexandria make an impact in the city by not only attending a performance, for example, but purchasing dinner at a nearby restaurant, shopping in nearby stores, paying a babysitter and parking in a city garage, Cohen said.
Additionally, approximately 30 percent of the 2.3 million nonprofit arts attendees were residents with the remainder non-residents.
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Mayor Bill Euille spoke at the event, highlighting the importance of arts in the community.
“I’m proud of the identity Alexandria has because of its arts history,” he said.
After the event in response to a question from Patch, he said it’s a challenge for council and city staff to balance the budget while seeking to include financial support for the arts.
He said the good news is that the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association could be getting an increase in the fiscal year 2014 budget for its advertising funds, which will in turn promote the arts and attract tourism dollars.
However, the city manager’s budget plan, he added, also calls for an up to $15,000 reduction in funds to the city’s arts commission, which uses that money for grants to arts organizations.
“We need to find a way to restore that money so that group can be made whole,” he said.
Euille invited Cohen to a staff retreat March 23 to give his presentation so that city staff could see data showing how beneficial the arts are to the growth of the community whether it be financial or otherwise.