Arts Enrich the Town, Literally

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A new study shows that Laguna Beach non-profit arts and cultural institutions and their audiences generated $95.4 million in economic activity altogether in 2015, or twice that as five years earlier.

That amounts to way more than the $5.3 million typical of arts spending in other regions with similar populations during the same time frame, according to the Arts and Economic Prosperity Report 5, released Saturday, June 17, by the arts advocacy organization Americans for the Arts.

Published every five years, a similar 2010 report pegged economic activity by Laguna arts organizations at $49 million.

The results suggest Laguna Beach not only offers food for the soul, but in myriad ways puts meals on the tables of the community at large.

Malcom Warner
Malcolm Warner

Nationally, at a time when the National Endowment for the Arts is under financial pressure, non-profit arts and culture organizations generated $166.3 billion of economic activity during 2015, the most recent figures compiled by Americans for the Arts from 14,439 arts and cultural organizations and 212,691 attendees nationwide.

In a town of 23,341 residents, cultural spending in Laguna Beach supported 1,185 jobs both directly and indirectly, from gallery owners to wait staff serving arts patrons, the study says.

“Arts are driving the economy of cities. We are a business not a charity,” Randy Cohen, research vice president of Americans for the Arts, said in addressing arts leaders at an annual conference in San Francisco last week.

He said the operational necessities of an arts venue exert an impact that goes beyond the price of admission tickets to include webmasters and painting contractors.

Among the town’s leading arts groups, the Laguna Art Museum’s operating budget increased to $2.3 million in 2016, in part due to a city grant matched by private fundraising, spokesman Cody Lee said. As a result, the museum added one extra person to its payroll, now at 13, compared to the prior year and its $1.7 million budget in 2015.

The Laguna Playhouse, having received the same city provided development incentive, had revenue of $5.1 million and 25 full-time employees in 2016, said development director Doug Vogel. Its season drew 80,000 patrons and $3 million in ticket revenue.

Locals attending arts events have upped their spending to $44 per event in 2015 compared to $35 per visit in 2010, the study shows. Visitors typically spent $87 to attend an arts event, up from $50 five years ago.

Volunteers, the lifeblood of most organizations, are also tallied in the survey. Their numbers dropped locally in 2015 to 992 volunteers, who contributed 51,444 hours to non-profit arts and cultural organizations. By comparison, in 2010, 2,080 volunteers donated 93,184 hours, the study shows.

The Festival of Arts’ summer production, Pageant of the Masters, alone utilizes 500 volunteers and the summer fine art show keeps busy docents and board members, which number 44. The Festival of Arts’ budget is $9.5 million and last year’s attendance was tallied at 250,000, spokeswoman Sharbie Higuchi said.

Despite the sizeable local impact of arts organizations quantified by the study, arts lovers make up a fraction of the town’s 6.3 million annual visitors. Three quarters arrive to hit the beach, while 21 percent attended a special event or festival, 9.9 percent visited galleries and 7.6 percent attended performing arts, according to a 2016 study on visitors preferences conducted by Visit Laguna Beach, the city’s promotion arm.

While the average visitor spent $66.57 on restaurants and dining, museums and performing arts got $8.31 of the share, the visitor study shows.

“The arts mean business,” said Robert L. Lynch, Americans for the Arts’ president and chief executive officer, concluded in San Francisco.

 

Correction:

In the article, “Arts Enrich the Town, Literally” in the June 23 edition, the number of full-time jobs generated by cultural spending was misstated due to a reporting error. The correct number of full-time jobs generated is 2,512.

 

 

 

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