Admissions Down, But Arts/Culture Spending Up
BY TANYA RODRIGUES
Although admissions were down, spending from local arts and culture organizations grew, according to a recent report.
Groups who received funding from the city of San Diego collectively spent $106.6 million during the city’s 2001 fiscal year, according to an economic impact study released by the city’s Commission for Arts & Culture.
The figure was up from $102.2 million the previous year.
Admissions during the recent fiscal year, which began July 1, totaled 4.4 million. It was a 200,000 decrease from the previous year.
The 4.4 million figure included 3.1 million in paid admissions.
An estimated 1.8 million of the 4.4 million came from visitors outside of city limits, according to the report.
Victoria Hamilton, the commission’s executive director, attributed the arts organizations’ increased spending to pre-Sept. 11 activity, growing salaries and increased marketing during the year.
Bruce Bleakley, executive director of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, said that the report helps the public to understand the impact of arts and culture on the city.
“I think it’s important for people to understand the tangible benefits, in the form of actual money and financial gain,” Bleakley said.
Leon Natker, general director of the San Diego Comic Opera, said the report illustrates that art and culture are important to local business.
Natker said the report also showed a lot of growth is possible for the different ways the groups affect San Diego, including tourism and additional jobs.
The report reflects what the arts community has gone through as of late, he said.
“We all took a pretty big hit this last year,” Natker said. He said the comic opera didn’t have as rough a time as many groups.
After Sept. 11, ticket sales were off by 15 percent, Natker said, but they began to recover after the first of the year. Beyond that, however, subscription sales grew 8 percent. The opera currently has 1,500 subscribers.
Now, Natker said, “We’re holding steady.”
The comic opera currently operates under a $560,000 annual budget.
The Aerospace Museum did see an 8-10 percent dip in attendance, which had begun in 2000, Bleakley said.
As a result, the institution cut back on spending in the last year, he said.
The museum is planning to jumpstart attendance this fall with a new advertising campaign and new exhibits, Bleakley said.
Luanne Lal, executive director of the Japanese Friendship Garden in town, said that her attendance has actually grown this year significantly.
Compared to 50,000 in the previous year, it was 70,000 during the city’s recent fiscal year, Lal said.
Of that, 80 percent of her visitors are from out of state, she said.
The city’s support of her programs has been an impetus to grow, she said.
Between required performance reports and requirements to increase programming, Lal has found that she has increased her organization’s activities and staff.