Study shows arts mean busi­ness for the re­gion

Cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions tout re­port’s data show­ing events’ eco­nomic im­pact

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By ERICA MOSER Day Staff Writer

New London — Cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions through­out south­east­ern Con­necti­cut have long her­alded the ben­e­fits of sup­port­ing the arts, but they now have data about the eco­nomic im­pact of their pro­gram­ming.

The South­east­ern Con­necti­cut Cul­tural Coali­tion on Wed­nes­day re­leased the lo­cal re­sults of Arts & Eco­nomic Prosperity 5, an eco­nomic im­pact study of arts or­ga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try that Amer­i­cans for the Arts be­gan in 1994.

The 70 lo­cal non­profit arts and cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions sur­veyed in 2015 yielded $168 mil­lion in eco­nomic im­pact, as mea­sured by full-time equiv­a­lent jobs, res­i­dent house­hold in­come, and rev­enues to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

New London County was one of 341 re­gions — rang­ing in size from cities to coun­ties to states — in­volved in the study. While this is the fifth study na­tion­wide, it is the first that in­cluded south­east­ern Con­necti­cut.

“Cul­ture and the arts, we know in our soul, is what makes a place spe­cial,” said Nancy Cowser, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the South­east­ern Con­necti­cut En­ter­prise Re­gion (SeCTer). But this study, she said, puts dol­lars and cents on that feel­ing.

Cowser was one of three pan­elists dis­cussing the re­sults on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, along with former Gro­ton City Mayor Mar­ian Gal­braith and Ston­ing­ton Direc­tor of Plan­ning Ja­son Vin­cent.

The panel dis­cus­sion, and ques­tions from com­mu­nity arts and cul­ture lead­ers in the au­di­ence, were at the tail end of an hour­long pre­sen­ta­tion at the Ly­man Al­lyn Art Mu­seum. Be­fore­hand, Cul­tural Coali­tion ex-

ec­u­tive direc­tor Wendy Bury shared the study re­sults in a slideshow pre­sen­ta­tion.

She noted that shar­ing the in­for­ma­tion there was like preach­ing to the choir, and “the goal is to get this out to the non-choir mem­bers.”

The Cul­tural Coali­tion iden­ti­fied 233 non­profit arts and cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions, and sent their names and con­tact in­for­ma­tion to Amer­i­cans for the Arts. With per­sis­tent re­minders from the Cul­tural Coali­tion, 70 or­ga­ni­za­tions re­sponded to AFTA.

This in­cluded Eastern Con­necti­cut Bal­let, Mo­he­gan Sun, La Grua Cen­ter, New London Mar­itime So­ci­ety, Gro­ton Public Li­brary, East Lyme His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, Hy­gienic Art and the Chil­dren’s Mu­seum of South­east­ern Con­necti­cut.

The study found that while the re­gion has 8 per­cent of the state’s pop­u­la­tion, it had 16 per­cent of the or­ga­ni­za­tional spend­ing from arts in­sti­tu­tions and 30 per­cent of the au­di­ence spend­ing.

In ad­di­tion to feed­back from or­ga­ni­za­tions, the Cul­tural Coali­tion sent staff and vol­un­teers to col­lect data from 786 event and fes­ti­val at­ten­dees in 2016. This was to meet a bench­mark from AFTA of sur­vey­ing 200 peo­ple per quar­ter.

Not in­clud­ing event ad­mis­sions, at­ten­dees in south­east­ern Con­necti­cut spent an av­er­age of $25.77 per event, on ex­pen­di­tures like din­ing and park­ing. The na­tional av­er­age is $31.77.

Pa­trons from out­side of New London County, who con­sti­tuted 34 per­cent of at­ten­dees, spent 133 per­cent more than res­i­dents, with lodg­ing as a large fac­tor. As a head­line in the re­port stated, “the arts mean busi­ness.”

The 70 arts and cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions gen­er­ated $10.5 mil­lion in rev­enue to lo­cal and state govern­ment.

In the panel dis­cus­sion, Gal­braith — who is pres­i­dent of the Thames River Her­itage Park board — noted that this data is a good re­sponse to peo­ple who ask why tax dol­lars are be­ing spent on arts just to make peo­ple feel good.

Cowser said south­east­ern Con­necti­cut is great be­cause of all the parts that make it great, and peo­ple can’t keep com­part­men­tal­iz­ing them­selves.

“The more that we can pack­age our mes­sages in­clu­sively, in­stead of push­ing that com­pe­ti­tion with one an­other, makes us all bet­ter,” she said of arts or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Look­ing ahead, Bury said the Cul­tural Coali­tion will be ex­am­in­ing the ZIP codes of event at­ten­dees they in­ter­cepted.

Randy Cohen, vice pres­i­dent of re­search and pol­icy at Amer­i­cans for the Arts, will be com­ing to Con­necti­cut in late Novem­ber to pro­vide a deeper anal­y­sis of the data and more in­for­ma­tion on how AFTA crunched the num­bers.

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