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Monday, Sep 26, 2022
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Reviews Are In on Economic Role of Arts

Name San Diego’s economic engines? You might say military and defense-related activities — perhaps wireless technology, even international trade or biotech research. But San Diego has an uncredited powerful engine helping drive its economy: arts and culture.

Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are proud members of the business community — employing people locally, purchasing goods and services within the community — and they are deeply involved in the marketing and promotion of their cities. The numbers are significant: Nationally nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity, 5.7 million jobs and nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year.

The nonprofit arts and culture organizations funded through the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s Organizational Support Program (OSP) have an important role in San Diego’s economy. The 70 OSP organizations funded by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture constitute an important employment sector, supporting a workforce of more than 7,000. The groups stimulate the economy with more than $173 million in direct expenditures, including $98.8 million in salaries.

Cultural Exchange Rate

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Economic activity created by cultural tourism also creates jobs and brings in revenue. And according to the San Diego Visitor Profile Study conducted by CIC Research, cultural tourists are likely to have a longer stay, and nearly 60 percent of them use hotel accommodations. In addition, these visitors spend $561 per trip as compared with the average tourist’s expenditures of $235. San Diego is a prime destination for arts and culture fans; nearly 1.5 million visitors traveled to San Diego to participate in arts and culture events funded by the commission.

San Diego’s dynamic arts community exists in part because local leaders have a clear understanding that arts and culture are essential to the vitality of our communities. At the recent news conference announcing these stats, Mayor Jerry Sanders said that “every investment we make in the arts today has a lasting benefit to our economy and the other bottom line, our quality of life.”

Arts, culture and creativity are among our greatest resources. San Diego is one of the few cities in the country that has a full set of major cultural institutions.

Act I: Revitalization

San Diego hosts a robust environment for both nonprofit cultural organizations and private arts-focused businesses to thrive. In the 2011 Creative Industries report just released from the Americans for the Arts, there are 4,631 creative industry businesses in San Diego with more than 22,500 employees, ranking San Diego 8th among the 100 top U.S. cities. These creative industries, which include everything from science museums to graphic arts studios, have not only contributed to the economic bottom line but they have often been the first footprint for neighborhood revitalization.

Americans for the Arts, the leading nonprofit organization for advancing arts and culture in America, along with local host City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, held its annual convention in San Diego June 16-18. The event attracts more than 1,000 leaders of the arts community from all 50 states to discuss effective cultural policies. Cultivating larger local arts audiences and attracting tourism spending should be part of any American city’s future economic planning.

Ask an economist: The arts are big business here and a good investment.

Ask a corporate leader: San Diego’s position as an arts mecca is a major reason why it continues to show an above average growth in job creation, attracting talented young professionals and new businesses.

The arts are good for the economy, good for business and good for the spirit. Leaders who care about community and economic development can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts.

Victoria L. Hamilton has served as the Executive Director of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture since its inception in 1988. Robert L. Lynch is the president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.

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