Blog Posts for July 2012 Blog Salon

Birmingham: Changing Hats from Arts Administrator to Economic Developer

Posted by Buddy Palmer, Jul 11, 2012 0 comments

Buddy Palmer

I’m a fortunate community arts executive. I direct an organization, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham, which supports a vibrant ecosystem in the largest city, and cultural capital, of Alabama. Just a few years ago, in a public gathering, our former governor recognized Birmingham’s cultural sector as the region’s second greatest asset, just behind the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the state’s largest employer with a giant, nationally-recognized network of hospital and healthcare resources.

Birmingham lost one nonprofit contemporary art gallery in the recession; however, I am proud to say most of our organizations are being extremely resourceful at doing more with less. As nonprofits, we’re used to it, right?

And I’ve just received great news: the results of our local Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study show a more than 50 percent increase in annual economic impact from the data collected five years ago. We had an 80 percent survey-return rate from our organizations as compared with the national average of 43 percent. So, our cultural leaders are enthusiastic, capable, and determined to demonstrate our value.

We also have some important and encouraging signs as we move forward. The City of Birmingham is in the process of creating its first comprehensive plan in 50 years, and arts and entertainment tactics have been included in the area of "Prosperity and Opportunity" as well as "Housing, Neighborhoods, and Community Renewal."

Perhaps even more significant, "Blueprint Birmingham," a recently published economic-growth-strategy document commissioned by the Birmingham Business Alliance, our regional economic development authority, identifies "Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism" as one of only seven target sectors with the greatest potential for new job creation, retention of existing jobs, and overall wealth creation in the region. This recognition of the cultural sector as an engine for both community and economic development, when coming from unusual suspects, is a sure sign of progress.

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Hartford: City/Arts Council Partnership Creates Jobs

Posted by Cathy Malloy, Jul 10, 2012 0 comments

Cathy Malloy

One of our favorite catchphrases is “the arts are the backbone of our region.” And that is especially true of the City of Hartford, where arts, heritage, and cultural organizations are so ingrained in the local economy.

They are a primary driver of tourism, welcome millions of visitors each year, and support hundreds and hundreds of jobs; the arts have a huge impact on the service sectors—like restaurants, parking lots and small businesses—that depend on an influx of patrons from the surrounding suburbs.

Without the arts, Hartford would be just another commuter town, a nine to five destination for state and city employees.

The best illustration of the importance of the arts to the city’s economy is the Hartford Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant Program, one of the many grants initiatives managed and administered by the Greater Hartford Arts Council. These grants are a partnership between the City of Hartford and the Arts Council, and are specifically designed to really quantify and measure the impact of arts, heritage, and cultural programming on the city’s “bottom line,” and to show how a vibrant arts community can generate jobs and play a vital role in redefining the urban environment.

Since 2009, the city has invested over $2 million in arts programming, events, and micro-enterprise businesses in the arts—everyone from graphic designers to local vendors providing much-needed services to artists living and working in Hartford.

The program has seen tremendous success, generating almost $4.5 million in economic activity and, most importantly, supporting dozens of full and part-time jobs. “Job creation” initiatives have certainly become the latest national craze, and this program has a three-year track record of creating and supporting jobs through the arts—a testament to the impact of the arts.

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Westchester: Net Worth vs. Net Value

Posted by Ms. Janet T. Langsam, Jul 10, 2012 0 comments

Janet Langsam

Here in Westchester (NY), when we talk about the arts and the economy, we have a great story to tell. Working with Americans for the Arts, we have done successive reports every five years since 1995, building our economic impact to $156 million, with some 4,800 jobs.

It is a daunting task reaching out to 150 affiliates, begging data from overworked colleagues, doing live interviews with arts-goers and culling the information; but we do it because it is the single most important tool in our advocacy arsenal.

As an internal document, the report becomes our barometer; we know those are the numbers we have to beat in the next report. As an external document, it gets the attention of thought leaders in our community and perks up the ears of our legislators. It has also built broad community support. In a quick (and not so dirty) community SWOT analysis last year, 95 percent responded that the arts are important to Westchester’s economy.

Yet, as most arts councils, we struggle with the “conversation”—that is, how we talk about the value of the arts in tandem with this “dollars and cents” version of our net worth.

To help us shape the “net value” conversation, we developed a “Why Do the Arts Matter?” series of ads, featuring prominent business leaders saying things like:

“Art has the power to bring people together—especially at a time when every effort is being made to divide people in the world”

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Kansas City: Laying the Groundwork for Regional Cultural Planning with Hard Data

Posted by Mr. Paul Tyler, Jul 10, 2012 5 comments

Paul Tyler

This summer has brought the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City an unusual opportunity.

With the timing of the results from two major research projects, the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV) and the Local Arts Index (LAI) results, we have a complex and impressive overview of the arts ecology in Kansas City, one that’s never been seen before.

So, we’ve decided to host our first press conference in years. The event will include not just the highlights of the AEP IV figures, but also some of the key findings and takeaways from our Local Arts Index reports, all at the same time. This is without a doubt a big challenge, when you consider there’s so much information to cover.

The Kansas City metropolitan area sprawls over two states, five counties, and multiple cities, townships, and municipalities—I’ve heard that there are 117 different political jurisdictions here. We have five different LAI reports, one for each of the counties in our service area. That’s over 750 pages of detailed charts, graphs, and copy!

Then there’s also a regional report that combines all of the separate data into one unified look at the whole community, which also has some fascinating elements that are noteworthy. It’s humbling to realize that we can barely skim the surface of the information during a single event.

But the sheer volume of data now available is part of what drove the decision to take this approach. The two reports taken together provide the most complete and finely detailed study of the Kansas City arts community ever created. Breaking the data down into smaller segments would be easier, but it’s vital to get all of this information into the public sphere sooner rather than later. We’re in the beginning stages of regional community cultural planning, and waiting until the fall to release a second major study would slow our timetable for this considerably.

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Omaha: The Arts Make Our City a Masterpiece

Posted by Marjorie Maas, Jul 10, 2012 0 comments

The Mona Lisa’s face in the middle of a dollar bill teased the story, and the headline read, “Arts groups create beautiful economic music together.”

The Omaha World-Herald story was Nebraskans for the Arts’ first one out there regarding the release of Nebraska and City of Omaha Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV) data. A success!

Nebraskans for the Arts, the state’s advocacy organization for public arts funding and arts education, is based out of Omaha, the city drawing half of the state’s arts and culture economic impact according to AEP IV. It felt only fitting to make the initial announcement of the study findings here.

The impact of the arts has changed the face of Omaha: from the Holland Center’s masterful concert hall, to the mural projects of Kent Bellows Studio and Center for the Visual Arts and the burgeoning theater scene epitomized by BLUE BARN Theatre and Omaha Community Playhouse—the latter boasting as the largest community theater in the nation. These organizations are some of those who proudly took part in the economic impact survey and are eager to use the findings in their board rooms, grant applications, and business sponsorships.

We’re a community who invests in the arts—and the AEP IV launch spoke to this. Nebraskans for the Arts was honored at the quick acceptance of both Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and Greater Omaha Chamber President and CEO David Brown to speak at the press conference. We were also bolstered by Todd Simon, senior vice president and family owner of Omaha Steaks, a long time supporter of the arts community, agreeing to share remarks. It showed the civic and business interests of the city can be paired with its philanthropic community—that these entities and individuals value the arts as an industry as well as their fundamental value to individuals.

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The Cyclical Relationship: Local Business, Local Government, and the Arts in Atlanta

Posted by Ms. Camille Russell Love, Jul 10, 2012 0 comments

Camille Russell Love

There is an undeniable compatibility with the arts and the City of Atlanta local economy. According to the newest evidence provided by the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report on Atlanta, our nonprofit arts and culture organizations are a $300 million industry.

This calculation is a combination of the expenditures of these organizations ($168.1 million) and that of the attendees to cultural events ($131.9 million), excluding ticket prices. This local spending by residents and visitors to arts events benefits not only local business but local government as well.

Local government revenue from the above mentioned cultural expenditures, according to the AEP IV study, are $14 million. Proper distribution of these above mentioned government funds, in support of Atlanta’s booming arts industry will continue to heighten the city’s economic standing—without question. A good example of this cyclical relationship is a 2011 project of the Office of Cultural Affairs, Elevate/Art Above Underground. Local businesses, ranging from mom and pop shops to large hotel chains, gathered in support this downtown contemporary art and culture initiative.

Downtown Atlanta received a rather bold, immediate, and affirmative reaction following Elevate’s implementation. Elevate/Art Above Underground, a 66-day performance and visual arts exhibition in 2011, filled vacant properties, street corners, and plazas to showcase artwork ranging from 13-story murals to contemporary dance, video, installation, and poetry.

Although public funding allocated through our percent for art program was the direct source for the artist commissions, additional funding to execute an exhibition of this caliber was provided through local Atlanta businesses. Donation of art space, hotel rooms, theatrical lighting, food, advertising, and cash support nearly doubled the exhibition’s initial budget.

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