Arts and culture nonprofits are used to justify their existence. Sometimes they make the human argument. that the arts enrich our lives—even make them worth living—through storytelling, creative connection, and changing the way we see, hear, and feel.
And sometimes they make the dollars-and-cents argument, discussing the ways a vibrant arts scene enhances the well-being of an entire community.
In Columbia, the last argument is complete Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), a recent study by Americans for the Arts. The study found that Columbia’s arts and culture scene generated more than $18 million in economic activity last year, according to a news release from the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
The circulation divides this 2022 amount into two categories:
- $10.23 million was spent by non-profit arts and culture organizations
- $8.04 million in “event-related expenses from their audience”
The latter amount “supported 592 jobs and generated $3.73 million in local, state and federal government revenue,” according to the release.
These numbers offer encouragement afterwards a difficult 2023in which Columbia said goodbye to institutions such as Treeline Music Fest (formerly Roots N Blues) and the Columbia Experimental Music Festivalwhich closed in different ways but expressed common concern about the cost of remaining independent operations.
The data from AEP6 shows both the “resilience” of the pandemic and the depth of the arts’ influence as an economic driver, Sarah Dresser, director of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, said in the release.
“((The data) confirms that the arts, now more than ever, require our unwavering support,” Dresser added. “The study also highlights the social impact of a thriving arts community.”
In addition to presenting key numbers, AEP6 offered five Columbia takeaways.
- “Arts and culture nonprofits are businesses” that create jobs, buy goods and services from their neighbors, and bring attention to their communities
- “Arts and culture drive trade for local businesses.” Those who attend arts events in Columbia spend, on average, $36.39 per person per event beyond the price of admission on services such as food, transportation, childcare or pet care, the release noted.
- “Arts and culture boost visitor economy”
- “A vibrant arts and culture community keeps local residents and their discretionary money in the community” rather than spending it on comparable experiences elsewhere
- “Arts and cultural organizations contribute to community pride in the City of Columbia”
The study supports this last point with data showing, among other things, that 90.2% of arts participants say that arts and culture “inspire(s) a sense of pride in this neighborhood or community.” Additionally, 88.4% of respondents would “feel a great loss if this activity or venue were no longer available.”
AEP6 is backed by a “30-year legacy as the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind,” the release notes. Those interested in reading more can find both a summary and the full study at https://www.como.gov/cultural-affairs/programs-and-services/arts-economic-prosperity-study/.
Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] or by calling 573-815-1731. He’s on Twitter/X @aarikdanielsen.