Arts and Economy
A Better Quality of Life

How Do the Arts Make Our Lives Better?
A growing segment of the population – especially millennials – is shifting their focus from pure employment opportunity choices to consideration of a total quality of life perspective in making their geographic living choices. They take part in community activities, participate in company-sponsored affairs that help others, and they patronize a variety of arts and entertainment offerings. Talented small-business start-ups are in search of attractive communities to raise families and conduct business long-term.
Even rural areas well-known for decades for their attractions of scenic beauty and tourism have recognized the long-term value of promoting the arts in their areas. A perfect example is the beautiful town of Jackson Hole, WY, located adjoining the gorgeous range of the Grand Tetons. Jackson Hole was recognized by CVSuite for their multi-year program committing time and resources to put a program of public arts together for smaller rural communities such as theirs.
Jackson Hole Public Arts certainly deserves special kudos for their willingness to share the information they’ve garnered as they travelled that path, publishing the Public Art Placemaking and Public Arts Toolkit, and making it available as a guideline for other rural communities in search of increasing their visibility and availability of art in both public and private places.
What was the driving reason behind the effort? It’s as simple as making the community more attractive to current and prospective residents. Public art is just that – made up of local contributors and welcoming all skills in the arts, planners, and ‘creative placemaking’ (sic) from all parties concerned.
Do Creative Arts Make the Economy Better?
Studies and research conducted for over a decade support the theory that an active and robust program of arts and entertainment options contributes significantly not only to the quality of life for residents and visitors, but it also directly generates economic advantages for the community.
The National Center for Arts Research discussed in a recent article that through government contributions of only $148 million, the arts and culture industries generate as much as 4.2% of the national GDP. This means a much higher return in the form of employment opportunities and the ability to attract individuals to areas with a commitment to the arts.
The old adage that museums, creative arts, and theater were activities patronized primarily by the privileged and wealthy patrons who also support them financially no longer holds true, if it ever did.  
Both municipalities and rural areas are finding high levels of active participation and patronization of many cultural events, in both non-profit and profit-based offerings. This is not limited to specific types of arts venues, but covers many categories:

  • Creative Arts
  • Dance (ballet, contemporary, and creative)
  • Opera
  • Theatre (professional and local troupes)
  • Music of all Genres
  • Symphony Orchestras (of all sizes and professional levels)
  • Centers for the Performing Arts

Studies for 2015 reveal that over 900,000 workers are employed either full or part-time just by the non-profit segment of arts and cultural organizations. This includes only those organizations with budgets in excess of $50,000, indicating that the number could in truth be much higher. In addition, this does not include the vast number of committed volunteers that work behind the scenes to promote the creative arts in their cities and towns.
The National Endowment for the Arts estimates that 50% of Americans participated in a performing arts or visual arts presentation in the calendar year 2012. This figure alone emphasizes the importance of the arts and how it impacts the economy.
Other contributors to the economy include museums, including sectors such as historical collections or sites, natural science and history, and children’s museums. Such destinations attract entire families, and welcome class visits from a variety of education levels, with nearly 1 million visitors annually. They also combine to employ in excess of 84,000 workers, and contribute nearly $10 billion to the US economy, factoring in the combined impact of art museums with these sectors. Economic impact includes not only employment, but also such elements as facilities, insurance, funds allocated to exhibitions, and other goods and services purchased.
Future Impact of Arts and the Economy
As millennials and other segments of the population continue to seek out an improved quality of life and variety of experiences, it will behoove both urban incubators and smaller rural communities to take an active role in providing a climate where value is recognized in the creative arts and participants are welcome and encouraged to take part.
Economic benefits extend far beyond ticket sales, rent, and the need to hire employees. As patrons and families are attracted to each activity, the need for continuing development of restaurants, hotels, and public transportation will further impact the local economy in a positive manner.

Keywords: Arts and Economy
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