March 13, 2007 in Business

The arts are a big player in regional economy

By The Spokesman-Review
 

By the numbers

Spokane County is home to:

•725 artists, including those in visual arts, music, theater, architecture and other specialties.

•1,001 arts business and arts organizations, both non-profit and commercial.

•Best attended, in order of popularity, are performances, visual arts exhibits, festivals and fairs.

•Of all county artists, most are women who’ve practiced their arts or crafts for more than 24 years; about 87 percent work just part-time on art endeavors.

Art and cultural activities are more than mere playthings to Spokane’s annual economy, according to a new study by Eastern Washington University’s Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis.

Such events as concerts, exhibits, festivals and fairs poured an estimated $287 million directly in the county’s economy in 2005, the most recent year for which figures were available, the report shows. Visitor spending accounted for about 20 percent of total revenues.

Data come from polls last year of artists, arts organizations and other agencies.

Harry Sladich, president and CEO of the Spokane Regional Convention and Tourism Bureau, said arts play a star part in distinguishing the city.

At travel shows, Sladich said he and the CVB staff are often asked if Spokane has its own symphony, museums and other artistic draws.

“Arts define the sophistication of a city,” Sladich said. “And they want to know if we’re sophisticated.”

The poll also shows involvement in the arts created 3,420 jobs, most part-time, and attracted more than 773,000 spectators and participants to Spokane County in 2005.

The Spokane Arts Commission requested the study, the most extensive of its kind since the commission began tracking the data in 1984, said Karen Mobley, director of Spokane County Arts Commission.

Results were to be presented at last night’s Spokane City Council meeting.

EWU’s Patrick Jones, institute executive director; Mark Wagner, institute policy analyst; and David Bunting, economics professor, conducted the study and co-authored the resulting 50-plus-page report.

Mobley expects its findings to become solid baseline information as well as background vital to non-profits seeking grants, recruiters trying to lure new businesses and tourism organizations, among others, she said.

A breakdown of art-generated, direct revenue stream estimates it encompasses more than $206 million in annual sales, primarily admission fees; more than $74 million in earned income and more than $6 million in local, state and federal taxes, the study shows.

“There’s a misperception that artists don’t really spend money and arts organizations don’t really employ people,” Mobley said. The report shows “…even though we’re not Boeing, the arts are important to the state economy and have a lot of intrinsic benefits.”

Art’s total impact, when such expenditures as studio rent, art supplies, advertising and other indirect fees are added in, equals more than $276 million in sales, nearly $98 million in income and almost $10 million in taxes, producing 4,409 jobs, according to poll’s most conservative estimates.

Mobley said she hopes subsequent studies can be done conducted every three years to help accurately track trends and activities.

Funding for the study came from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation with support from the Spokane Arts Fund.


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