Investing in the Arts – Eugene Weekly

By Kelly Johnson

Eugene has a remarkable legacy of supporting the arts, shaping the diverse and dynamic arts community we value today. Respected institutions like the Very Little Theater and the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras and iconic destinations like the Eugene Saturday Market and the Hult Center hold decades of treasured memories for members of our community.

Every day, our arts and culture nonprofits actively transform their communities into better places to live and work, nurturing creativity, celebrating diversity and spreading joy.

At a time when many leaders in government and the private sector may feel challenged to fund the arts, a new national study brings a welcome message: When you invest in arts and culture, you’re investing in an industry that strengthens your economy and builds more living communities.

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Source: The Arts & Business Alliance of Eugene.

Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), a comprehensive survey of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry conducted every five years, recently revealed some truly impressive results. In 2022, Eugene’s arts and culture sector generated a remarkable $123.8 million in economic activity. This figure includes the costs of non-profit organizations and the economic ripples created by people attending art events.

Not-for-profit arts and culture organizations are more than creative entities; they operate as thriving businesses. They create jobs, engage local professionals such as accountants and plumbers and actively support neighboring businesses by supplying goods and services. This financial infusion — $90.2 million here in Eugene — ensures the sustainability of these vital institutions while acting as a driver for broader economic growth in our community.

In addition, art events also catalyze economic activity through attendee spending. When people attend a cultural event, they often do so on an outing—dinner at a restaurant, pay for parking or public transportation, enjoy dessert after the show, and return home to pay for child or pet care. Audience spending generated $33.6 million, highlighting the mutually beneficial relationship between the arts and local commerce. In total, this economic activity supports 2,714 local jobs.

Investments in the nonprofit arts and culture industry foster communities where people want to live and work. This is where entrepreneurs and creative businesses start and where night economies thrive. When we prioritize diverse cultural expressions and traditions, it nurtures social bonds, fosters community pride and identity, and boosts tourism by providing authentic experiences that draw visitors to the community. If visitors have a positive experience, it can become a place to work – and ultimately a place to live. Creating livable communities is economic development.

In Eugene, local arts and cultural events attracted nearly 150,000 visitors from outside Lane County. On average, excluding ticket prices, their event spending exceeded that of local visitors by 187 percent ($68.73 to $23.92). Additionally, these events help keep discretionary spending close to home, with nearly 42 percent of local visitors admitting they would travel out of the area for a similar event.

AEP6 extends beyond economic and financial data to include social impact metrics that measure the impact of arts and culture on community well-being. In Eugene, an astounding 91 percent of attendees agreed that the activities or places they were surveyed instilled a deep sense of pride in their neighborhood or community.

Art has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to slowly recover. However, they have played a crucial role in helping us heal socially and recover economically. The arts brought joy to difficult times, alleviated isolation and loneliness, and increased overall life satisfaction. They have also revitalized our local economy, encouraging people to get out, get involved and invest in the community.

AEP6 makes it clear that when we fund the arts, we do not support excess or extra. Rather, we invest in an industry – one that stimulates the economy, supports local jobs and contributes to building healthy and vibrant communities. Let’s continue to build on this legacy of supporting the arts in Eugene by nurturing a creative environment that elevates us all.

Kelly Johnson is the executive director of the Arts & Business Alliance of Eugene. The full AEP6 study by Americans for the Arts and highlights are available on the ArtsBusinessAlliance.org page of Eugene’s Arts & Business Alliance for Economic Impact. Randy Cohen, vice president of Research of Americans for the Arts, will talk about the AEP6 survey and local data at the Eugene Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit Nov. 9 at Lane Community College.

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