Study: Nonprofit arts groups have huge economic impact

Study: Nonprofit arts groups have huge economic impact
June 22
04:00 2017

A milestone study led by Americans for the Arts and conducted by economists from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Forsyth County are having a huge impact on the local economy.

Combined spending by the nonprofit art and cultural sector and their audiences was $156.8 million, up some $20 million from five years ago when the last study was made.

The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County paid to have Forsyth County included in the nationwide benchmark study by the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advocating the arts. The North Carolina Black Repertory Company, which sponsors the National Black Theatre Festival,  Delta Arts Center and Winston-Salem State University’s Diggs Gallery were among the 59 arts and cultural groups that participated. 

Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, came to Winston-Salem to announce the results of the local component of the study at a luncheon Wednesday in the Milton Rhodes Center.

Special guests at the luncheon were North Carolina’s First Lady Kristin Cooper; Susi Hamilton, N.C. secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources; and Wayne Martin, executive director of The North Carolina Arts Council. Each made brief remarks.

“It is abundantly clear from this study that arts and culture are economic drivers in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and ‘City of Arts and Innovation’ is more than just a tagline.  It is a fact of life here,” said Jim Sparrow, president and CEO of The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Forsyth County’s nonprofit arts industry supports 5,559 full time equivalent jobs, up from 4,769; accounts for more than $129 million in resident household income, and generated more than $14.8 million in local and state tax revenues. 

Cohen revealed that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, which spent almost $105 million during 2015, leveraged a remarkable $52 million in additional spending by their audiences – spending that pumped revenue into restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages, and other local businesses.

From 2000 forward, total economic impact has been $76.6 million (2000); $103.9 million (2005); $136.6 million (2010); and $156.8 million (2016).

About 60 percent of Forsyth County nonprofit arts and cultural organizations participated in the study and nearly 800 event goers were surveyed about their spending. 

In addition to the price of tickets, they averaged spending $21.38 per person, all dollars that went into the local economy. More than 65 percent of people who attended nonprofit arts and cultural events in Forsyth County were residents of the county. 

Sparrow said the study confirms something else that local arts and cultural agencies have known for decades – volunteers make a tremendous contribution to their operations and sustainability. During 2015, a total of 6,227 volunteers donated 278,974 hours to Forsyth County’s participating organizations.  This donation of time has an aggregate value of $6,572,627.  Sparrow said The Arts Council’s continued effectiveness over the years can be attributed to the thousands of dedicated volunteers and contributors who are firmly committed to the idea that Winston-Salem is a “City of Arts and Innovation.”

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