Arts contribute to a healthy Arizona economy

Guest Opinion//July 28, 2014

Arts contribute to a healthy Arizona economy

Guest Opinion//July 28, 2014

As Arizonans sharpen their focus on the actions that will enable our state to become more competitive, emerging evidence points to the profound economic impact of arts and culture organizations. In fact, the arts not only enrich our community, but they contribute to a healthy economy. When businesses consider Arizona for investment, they not only value friendly tax and regulatory environments, but they want to see a vibrant arts scene as an indicator of our state’s overall quality of life.

According to the 2013 Arizona Cultural Data Project, more than 200 participating arts and culture organizations pumped over $225 million into the state economy. An econometric analysis developed for the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) “Arts and Economic Prosperity IV” study showed that those organizations’ audiences spent another $356 million beyond ticket purchase and admission fees.

The arts also have a significant positive downstream effect in other industries. The AFTA model shows that every dollar arts and culture organizations invest in our community generates $1.50 of economic activity through additional jobs, retail services, hospitality and tourism spending, and tax revenues to communities across the state.

The reach and the economic impact of the sector is a major reason we are seeing an improvement in the public funding.

In FY2013 for the first time in five years, the Arizona Commission on the Arts received a funding increase through a one-time $1 million allocation from interest earned on the state “rainy day” fund.

Based on the success of the initial allocation, the Legislature allocated another $1 million from rainy day fund interest in the recently-passed FY2015 budget signed by the governor.

The Arts Commission leveraged part of this year’s allocation into two new programs that go beyond the bounds of existing grant programs to create higher impact, innovative arts activities across the state.

The first, the highly-competitive Community Catalyst Grants awarded more than $100,000 to 13 arts organizations in Arizona’s small and rural communities for community-focused projects pairing arts groups with non-arts organizations in places like Bisbee, Nogales, Douglas, Casa Grande, Wickenburg, Cottonwood, Flagstaff, Williams and the Grand Canyon.

The second, Arizona Art Tank, awarded $124,000 in seed money to 21 arts-based projects demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit, responsiveness to their target markets, and visibility beyond the organization’s existing reach. Four statewide regional competitions were judged by panels of local business, community and elected representatives.

Focusing on “business unusual,” Art Tank projects helped launch new initiatives like the partnership between Art4All and the Phoenix Center for the Arts to create “Art4All Mobile,” which applies the book mobile concept to deliver high-quality, high-impact arts experiences to underserved youth.

Wickenburg citizens are using a grant to develop a plan to increase foot traffic and enhance Wickenburg’s ranking as a cultural tourism destination. Casa Grande is revitalizing its downtown and using art to tell its railroad history. Nogales is highlighting itself as the birthplace of jazz legend Charlie Mingus to increase cultural tourism These and other thoughtful, unique and revenue-generating projects prove that the arts have long since moved beyond stereotypically defined venues and programs to become an integral, impactful and important contributor to Arizona’s economic success and vitality. A better Arizona arts scene makes for a better Arizona.

— Catherine “Rusty” Foley is executive director of the Arizona Citizens for the Arts.  

— Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.