Local arts contributes to economy: $73 million generated by Flagstaff culture
By Aurelia Acquati
Flagstaff is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike to experience art, science and other cultural performances. However, they may not realize they are contributing to a multi-million dollar industry.
“The arts really do mean business,” said Elizabeth Hellstern, marketing and public relations coordinator for the College of Arts and Letters.
In 182 communities across the nation, the organization Americans for the Arts conducted a study called Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, which attempted to increase appreciation of the arts. The study shows the non-profit division generates around $73 million annually for the city, a sum of audience and organization expenditures.
John Tannous, executive director of Flagstaff Cultural Partners, said his organization administered the study locally, collecting data from 37 non-profit organizations. The numbers showed the importance and impact the arts and sciences culture has on Flagstaff.
“With the arts industry, what you can see is not only is there this huge economic impact as a result of all the spending and the jobs that are created by the organizations,” Tannous said. “[But,] it’s almost doubled in this community by audience funding.”
The study explains this industry not only stimulates economic activity, but has also helped maintain 2,497 local jobs. Tannous clarified the jobs are not within the arts sector of the community only, but are sustained by the revenue it generates.
“We don’t have 2,500 jobs directly in the arts community, but the $73 million of economic activity supports those jobs,” Tannous said. “What the study tells us specifically is that it puts food on the table for families in Flagstaff.”
Hellstern explained that the study provides an economic model based on a monetary ripple effect. It helps people see how the arts affect each aspect of the community in more ways than one.
“[The study] really makes the arts understandable for people who respect numbers, and sometimes artists don’t work in that realm,” Hellstern said. “But this is a real tangible result of their product that people can understand and compare.”
The study not only shows the economic impact of the arts, Hellstern said, but also the cultural impact on the city. She emphasized the importance of community members going out to support the arts, or else they may fade away.
“I just would hope that people would realize that the arts have a lot to add to the value of the Flagstaff experience,” Hellstern said. “I think that if we don’t use it, we’ll lose it. That’s financial support right there.”
Tannous believes the study is important to illustrate how the arts culture is more than merely a social enterprise in Flagstaff.
“We want [community members] to see that the arts are more than just a quality of life initiative,” Tannous said. “That instead, this is something that’s essential not to the social fabric, but also to the economic health of our community.”
President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, Robert Lynch, said in a press release it is important to understand the impact of a city’s art and culture industry. He said arts and sciences not only educate and inspire people, but also stimulate job growth.
“Understanding and acknowledging the incredible economic impact of the non-profit arts and culture, we must always remember their fundamental value,” Lynch said. “The arts inspire us, sooth us, provoke us, involve us, and connect us. But they also create jobs and contribute to the economy.”