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updated: 3/28/2013 1:47 PM

Elgin Forum Links Economic Prosperity to Arts

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  • Pictured: Ra Joy (Executive Director of Arts Alliance Illinois, Craig Dresang (City of Elgin Cultural Arts Commission), and Rand Cohen (Vice President of Research & Policy for Americans for the Arts).

      Pictured: Ra Joy (Executive Director of Arts Alliance Illinois, Craig Dresang (City of Elgin Cultural Arts Commission), and Rand Cohen (Vice President of Research & Policy for Americans for the Arts).
    Sylvia Grady

Craig Dresang

The results of the largest-ever study related to the economic impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations were recently shared at a forum sponsored by the City of Elgin and the Cultural Arts Commission.

The findings, according to Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy for Americans for the Arts in Washington D.C., "Clearly demonstrate that arts and culture not only improve a city's quality of life and enhance education, but they are powerful economic engines that improve neighborhoods and help keep small businesses open."

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In the study, Arts & Economic Prosperity IV drew its findings from 182 regions representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Cohen said, "It has provided a quantifiable economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences."

Nationally, the industry generated $135.2 billion of economic activity -- $61.1 billion by the nation's nonprofit arts and culture organizations in addition to $74.1 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This economic activity supports 4.13 million full-time jobs and generates $86.68 billion in resident household income. The industry also generates $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year--a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations. Cohen said, "The study clearly demonstrates that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are employers, producers, consumers, and key promoters of their cities and regions. Most of all they are valuable contributors to the business community."

Craig Dresang who serves on Elgin's Cultural Arts Commission, presented local statistics related to the economic impact of arts and culture. "If you talk to downtown business owners, you will hear that there is a significant and positive impact on their business when there are performances, festivals or events downtown. The City's investment through the Cultural Arts Commission is less than $100,000, however, it has an economic impact of $1.45 million on the local economy." These figures were compiled by using the Arts & Economic Prosperity calculator.

In addition, according to Dresang, a minimal investment in Elgin's cultural arts organizations generates household income of $1 million and government revenue of $140,000. "There is a local impact on education, our workforce, quality of life, community engagement, and Elgin's image."

Since opening in 2007, the Elgin Arts Showcase has presented over 600 performances and garnered more than 30,000 patrons. "The Showcase averages 40 weeks of programming each year and has attracted paying theater companies from all parts of Chicago, Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, and Northern Illinois University," according to Dresang. Moreover, in 2012, the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra performed 38 outreach concerts that reached nearly 50,000 people.

Cohen agreed, saying, "Every day, more than 100,000 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations act as economic drivers-- creating an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of our tourism industry." Arts & Economic Prosperity IV also shows that America's arts industry is not only resilient in times of economic uncertainty, but is also a key component to the nation's economic recovery and future prosperity. "Business and elected leaders need not feel that a choice must be made between arts funding and economic prosperity. This study proves that they can choose both," according to Cohen.

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