Folk: The art of economyWritten by Marc Folk | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As Northwest Ohio seeks to secure its economic footing, it should consider culture both a stabilizer and a driver. The benefits of a community rich with arts and culture are numerous and profound. The most often recognized attributes are performing and gallery events, public art and murals, vibrant artist communities, cultural tourism and in general an improved quality of life. What is often overlooked is the power of the arts and cultural sector as the economic engine that it is. With a shifting economy (and just about every other facet of American life) it is critical to identify, embrace and support those sectors of our community that are performing at high rate. The arts in Toledo and the broader Northwest Ohio Community are humming. Listen up.
Nationally, there is a growing interest in the business of arts and creative industries, and substantial research on their impact. The Americans for the Arts (AFTA), the leading arts advocacy and research organization, defines this sector into six categories: Museums and Collections; Performing Arts; Visual Art and Photography; Film, Radio and Television; Design and Publishing; and Schools and Services.
In 2007 the Center for Regional Development at BGSU studied the economic impact of the Creative Industries in the 27 counties in Northwest Ohio and the results were incredible. Below are highlights of the financial impact of the sector:
O Generates $2.4 billion annually in NW Ohio
O Supports 33,426 jobs annually in NW Ohio
O Generates $97 million in state and local taxes
O Generates $151 million in federal tax revenues
To put these figures into a human scale, an employment equivalent analysis was also performed. The results were equally surprising. Those working in Northwest Ohio creative industries equal:
O 10 North Toledo Jeep assembly plants, or
O 95 Bass Pro Shop stores, or
O 10 Whirlpool plants, or
O Equal to entire labor force of Sandusky County
Can you recall the energy stirred to secure a location for Bass Pro Shop’s new facility and how its potential for economic impact was celebrated? Imagine if this region generated the same enthusiasm for a sector that employs the equivalent of 95 Bass Pro Shops.
The American for the Arts provided the Arts Commission with a January 2010 study of the Creative Industries specific to the city of Toledo proper. The results are equally impressive with 424 arts related businesses, employing 3,035 people. These figures only represent those registered with Dun and Bradstreet (the world’s leading source of commercial information and insight on businesses) and is an underrepresentation of hundreds of local artists and nonprofit organizations. To put this in perspective, that is more people than Owens Corning employs in the state of Ohio. While I’m sure the pay scales differ, it is a clear demonstration of the impressive impact of the arts on the local economy, and in my opinion, a clear indicator that our local economic development agencies should be actively pursuing creative businesses to relocate to our area with the same intensity they are focusing on other sectors.
To drill down even further, let’s look at the impact of a single arts organization’s fundraising event. Earlier this month the Arts Commission held its biennial Hot Glass auction. It was the culmination of a monthlong exhibition featuring 90 artists and 102 works of fine art glass. The exhibition featured local, regional, national and international artists, offering those artists wholesale payment for their artwork with proceeds above that going to the Arts Commission to support its programs and services. There were several hundred people in attendance and the event was a
success on many levels.
Keeping with the theme, let’s take a look at the numbers. The event raised $84,000 for the delivery of Arts Commission programs and services. An additional $22,800 was raised for the Young Artist at Work Program (a teen employment program in the arts that hires an approximate 60 youth a year for six weeks in the summer). As previously mentioned, artists are paid wholesale for their work. With 84 percent of the auction items selling, $110,000 will be paid back to artists with $42,500 going directly to Ohio and Michigan artists. Another $24,000 went toward event expenses such as food, sound and lighting, printing and display, all services being provided by local businesses. This single event brought together business support, nonprofit partnership and private citizens for a whopping $240,000 of economic activity, not including the indirect impact generated such as clothing, bar and restaurant sales.
The bottom line is the arts are big business for the greater Toledo community. They enhance quality of life and make our region more appealing to businesses seeking to relocate to affordable markets. They energize our urban core, making our city more likely to keep our youth who are seeking cultural activity in other cities. Arts and culture represent a sector where public/private partnerships play the role of creating economic activity at many levels.
As you are seeking gifts for your family and friends this holiday season I strongly urge you to consider purchasing memberships to local arts and cultural organizations and/or works of art from local and regional artists. Not only is the gift of art a unique purchase, it is a wise investment and will most likely elevate you to coolest family member status. You may browse a directory of local artists, galleries and arts-related businesses and upcoming holiday art events on our website at www.acgt.org.
Marc Folk is the director of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.