The Arts As An Economic Force | St. Louis Public Radio

The Arts As An Economic Force

Mar 1, 2013

The arts are and have always been a driving economic force in the city, not only in our city, but virtually in cities around the world.

Marilu Knode of Laumeier Sculpture Park recently gave a talk at the University of Missouri – St. Louis in their annual "What is a City" conference presented by the Center for the Humanities. The talk was entitled, "Global Impact of the Arts on the City." She gave some incredible statistics, for example, that the first Venice Biennale in Italy was founded in 1895 specifically to create an art market for contemporary art.

Today Venice has a population of 270,000. During the Biennale, the population swells to 440,000. Not only are the inhabitants given jobs such as pavilion maintenance, marketing, etc., but imagine what the visitors spend at hotels, on food, on air fare, etc.

She went on to give more statistics such as the impact of the art fair, Documenta, held in Kassel, Germany every few years. One third of the visitors are from outside Germany and the population went in 2009 from just under 200,000 to almost 900,00. Imagine what this does to the economy in Kassel.

Last year our own Regional Arts Commission in partnership with America for the Arts, the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts, published a large booklet entitled "Arts and Economic Prosperity." According to the information in the booklet, the arts mean jobs for our citizens, the arts mean sales for local restaurants and shops, the arts mean clients for small businesses that supply everything from printing to painting, the arts mean earnings for hotels from tourists who visit our city to attend art events, and the arts mean REVENUE for local and state government.

Other unbelievable statistics pointed out in the Regional Arts publication are that while the country was steeped in a recession and unemployment almost doubled, it is remarkable that the arts and culture industry in St. Louis experienced growth. The economic impact of the arts in the region is $582.3 million, a 4% increase from 2007 when the survey was last conducted. Very few industries can boast of improved performance during the last 5 years.

Equally important, the arts audience remained strong. There were 11.3 million visits to the arts in St. Louis, a slight increase from the 2007 study. That makes the arts audience larger than the Cardinals, Blues, and Rams audiences combined.

An article on the internet put out by NuWire Investors says that investors may deepen their appreciation for the arts after they realize how much influence artists can have on real estate values.

Not many artists can afford the expensive rents of trendy downtown areas of the city, so most live in cheaper areas of the city. When an area is full of artists, it attracts new studios, and galleries, restaurants, and shops. The energy and culture can change a less than desirable neighborhood into a desirable one with property prices to match.

I whole heartedly agree with Danny Ludeman, CEO of Wells Fargo in downtown St. Louis, who said, "Any way you look at it, the arts mean business in St. Louis.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some 30 years on numerous arts related boards.