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San Diego Spends More On Arts Than Cities Of Same Size

Aired 6/8/12 on KPBS News.

A new study reveals the impact of arts spending in San Diego city and county. The national study also provides comparisons to cities and counties of comparable size.

Cast of the Old Globe's production of "Amadeus," part of the 2011 Shakespeare Festival.
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Above: Cast of the Old Globe's production of "Amadeus," part of the 2011 Shakespeare Festival.

A new national study released today reveals the economic impact of San Diego's non-profit arts and culture industry. When compared to many cities and regions of comparable size, San Diego's arts industry spends far more.

In fact, San Diego's arts industry (organization + audience spending) spends more than twice the median of what similar size cities spend. For example, the city of Phoenix is slightly bigger than San Diego, but our arts industry spends almost twice as much.

The study, conducted by the non-profit Americans for the Arts, is being called the most comprehensive economic impact study of arts spending ever conducted in the U.S.

San Diego’s arts organizations and audiences - together - spent more than half-a-billion dollars in 2010, the year the study focused on.

Cucina Urbana, on 5th and Laurel, is often packed before and after plays at the nearby Old Globe theater.
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Above: Cucina Urbana, on 5th and Laurel, is often packed before and after plays at the nearby Old Globe theater.

Data was collected from 120 organizations.

The study looks at how organizations spend money locally. If a theater buys paint from a local hardware store, for example, that’s counted. Audience spending includes things like paying for dinner before the show, parking, and a babysitter.

Victoria Hamilton is the executive director of the city's Commission for Arts and Culture, which advises the mayor and City Council on the needs of San Diego’s arts community. She said, "The numbers are pretty significant and I look forward to sharing these with City Council during our budget hearing. They’re always looking for a return on investment. And I think the credibility of this study will further ensure the support of the (council)."

The study's audience surveys found that tourists in San Diego spend an average of 53 percent more per person than local attendees as a result of attending arts events. They typically spent more in the categories of lodging, meals, and transportation.

The study also looked at spending throughout greater San Diego county, surveying an additional 80 organizations on top of the city's 120. Spending by those organizations and audiences added an extra $85 million to the economic impact of arts in our region.

In a press release, Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, said:

"This study shines a much-needed light on the vital role the arts play in stimulating and sustaining economic development. Contrary to popular belief, the arts are a bustling industry that supports a plethora of diverse jobs, generates significant revenues for local businesses and to federal, state and local governments and provides quality of life that positions communities to compete in our 21st century creative economy.”

Nationally, the study reveals that the nonprofit arts industry produced $135.2 billion in economic activity during 2010. This spending - $61.1 billion by nonprofit arts and culture organizations plus an additional $74.1 billion by their audiences - supported 4.1 million full-time equivalent jobs and generated $22.3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.

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