Study: Arts Generate Many Businesses

It seems self-evident to say that your local theatre company, dance troupe, and symphony help keep people employed. These groups, after all, hire actors, dancers, and musicians. And they hire administrative staffs and, quite often, technical staffs, too.

But a new study, issued by Americans for the Arts on Mon., June 28, takes a look at the arts-related businesses—and the resulting employment—that might be less easily visible: the down-the-block dry cleaner, the around-the-corner delicatessen, the nearby fabric wholesaler, the next-door copy shop, all of which benefit from what theatre companies, dance troupes, symphonies, and arts organizations in general do every day and season.

Even for the most fervent arts advocates, the statistics contained in Americans for the Arts' first-ever "Creative Industries Study" are nothing short of stunning. In all, there are an estimated 548,000 "arts-related businesses, institutions, and organizations" in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia—equal to 4.3% of all businesses in the United States. These companies in turn employ 2.99 million people, equal to 2.2% of the country's entire working population. In an age when economic impact studies are the bread and butter of arts advocates, and in an age when making the case to elected officials to support the arts is a never-ending task, this is fresh fodder for persuasive discussion.

To create the study, six "creative industries" were surveyed separately: performing arts; film, radio, and TV; museum/collections; visual/photography; schools/services; and design/publishing. Having created as expansive a universe as possible, the study then goes on to cross-section the statistics, analyzing the data by metropolitan area, by state, and by the number of businesses per capita. The study significantly makes no distinction between not-for-profit and commercial businesses: If a company exists due to the presence of an arts group, it is counted in the survey.

When the figures are considered in terms of metropolitan area, it comes as no surprise that the New York region—specifically, New York, northern New Jersey, and Connecticut—comes out on top, with 54,895 arts-related businesses, or slightly more than 10% of the overall total. It is also no surprise that the Los Angeles metropolitan area—including Riverside and Orange counties—comes in second place, with 48,862. On a state-by-state basis, the expected also holds true: California, the nation's largest state in terms of population and overall economy, tops the list with 89,719 arts-related businesses, while New York comes in second with 45,671. Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington, New Jersey, Ohio, and Michigan round out the top 10.

What is surprising, however, are the results when one looks at the rest of the metropolitan areas cited in the study. For one, all of the top 11 metropolitan areas—including third-place San Francisco (which includes Oakland and San Jose), seventh-place Boston (including Worcester and Lawrence, Mass.), and tenth-place Houston (including Galveston and Brazoria, Tex.)—sport over 10,000 arts-related businesses each.

Even a number of pro-creative communities widely viewed as up and coming, such as Denver (14th place, including Boulder and Greeley, Colo.), Minneapolis (16th place, including St. Paul, Minn.), and Phoenix (17th place, and including Mesa, Ariz.), sport more than 5,000 businesses each. The metropolitan area that rounds out the top 20—St. Louis, Mo.—boasts 4,294 arts-related companies.

Looking at arts-related business per capita reveals more surprises. While the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas contain millions of citizens, leaving them ranked sixth and third, the birthplace of grunge and Starbucks—the area including Seattle, Tacoma, and Bremerton, Wash.—boasts the highest number of arts-related businesses as a function of population: 3.415 per 1,000 citizens.

Americans for the Arts, in its written statement accompanying the release of the "Creative Industries Study," noted that it is possible to analyze the data "and provide mapping for virtually any city, county, state or Congressional legislative district, and state in the nation," thus maximizing the ways in which arts advocates can use the information to press for their various causes and concerns. For each area, the statement said, "the statistics can include the name of the business sector, the number of companies—including nonprofits—within the sector, and the number of people employed by those companies."

Also in the statement, Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, offered arts advocates a rhetorical road map to follow as well: "This study reveals, for the first time, the extraordinary presence of the creative industries throughout our nation. With the growth of the information age, the arts are now a fundamental component of the U.S. economy, and one in which every state and virtually every community has a stake."