At a recent press conference, Randy Cohen, vice president of Americans for the Arts, posed the question, “What do you do with a local industry that supports 4,800 jobs and generates $12.5 million in revenue to local government?”
He offered the answer: “Invest in it, nurture it, and grow it. If you care about community and economic vitality, you can feel good about investing in the arts.”
These comments came at a July 27 press conference at which 50 government and local business leaders joined Cohen and ArtsWestchester as they unveiled the findings of the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study on the economic impact of the arts on Westchester County.
According to the study, the economic impact of the arts in Westchester has grown to $156.44 million from its previous level of $120 million five years earlier—a 189 percent growth. In addition, the arts industry created 4,800 jobs across many industries and returned $23.17 million in revenue to local and state governments.
The growth was due in part to a major increase in attendance to 2.7 million persons. The study’s findings underscore the fact that the arts bring commerce to many local businesses because attendees at Westchester arts events spend an average of $22.17, not including the price of admission.
Nonresidents make up 31.6 percent of attendees and spend an average of 69 percent more than local attendees, bringing new business to hotels, retail shops, cafés and restaurants.
Positive reactions to these findings have come from many corners of our community. At the conference and in a press release issued later that day, Chairman of the Board of Legislators Ken Jenkins congratulated ArtsWestchester for its success and work toward “creating an economic engine that matters” while promising continued support from the Board of Legislators who approved $1.5 million for arts funding in the County’s 2012 Budget.
"The study results…confirm what I have long believed: The arts have a positive and growing economic impact in our community,” said White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, referring to the 4,800 jobs created by the arts and its $23.17 million returned revenue to local and state governments. “This study clearly shows that the arts are job creators and revenue generators in addition to nourishing our soul and adding to the vitality of the city.”
Referencing another finding of the study that indicates that Westchester arts and culture organizations spent $96.8 million in 2010 and brought in $59.6 in additional event-related spending by audiences, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow commented: “Communities all over Westchester, including my own of Mount Vernon and Yonkers, are using the arts to drive business to local merchants. This study confirms that we are on the right track.”
“ArtsWestchester’s report confirms what we see—that the county is increasingly a place where filmmakers, actors, artists and artisans gravitate,” adds Dominick Balletta, Managing Director of Jacob Burns Film Center. “They come for the community; they come for the opportunities to shoot their projects locally, and then they stay because of the quality of life they help enhance here.”
Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson, chairwoman of the Friends of Westchester County Parks, amplifies Balletta’s sentiment by suggesting that "the findings of this study demonstrate that the arts in Westchester have a value that goes far beyond the aesthetics. They add to the quality of life in our county and are part of the many factors that make Westchester an attractive place to live, work and play.”
The report makes the point that a region’s failure to support the arts may be at its own peril: “If a community does not provide a variety of artistic and cultural experiences, it will fail to attract the new dollars of cultural tourists,” the study points out.
“It will also lose the discretionary spending of its local residents who will travel elsewhere to experience the arts.” Some 906 individuals were interviewed at cultural sites throughout Westchester. 56.2 percent of local residents said they would go elsewhere if cultural events were not available and affordable in Westchester.
New York State Assemblyman Robert Castelli states that “this [press conference] reminded me that due to recent budget deficits, we have cut funding for the arts to a dangerously low level…I recognize that the arts are a valuable component in a total education and I look forward to helping [ArtsWestchester] at a government level…to sustain these wonderful programs.”
The report concludes that when communities invest in the arts, “they are investing in an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is a cornerstone of tourism.” At Friday’s press conference, County Executive Robert Astorino mirrored this statement by recognizing that “the economic impact of the arts is showing strong growth and has increased more than 30% in the last 5 years to $156 million dollars. That is very encouraging, that is really important, and the jobs growth is very positive. 4,800 jobs are much needed in this economy, and the arts are doing very well.”
For more information: www.artswestchester.org/get-involved/save-the-arts/