State of the Arts - Economic Impact and Expanding Participation in Georgia Arts and Culture

In early 2015, The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released new findings from a survey about public participation in the arts. The report reveals some surprising findings about the impact of arts and cultural industries on GDP, as well as the attitudes, motivations and barriers for attending the arts at different life stages—the first time the NEA has published a report on this type of data. The following article by Smith & Howard's nonprofit team, discusses the NEA's report and highlights some of the ways Georgia's arts & culture organizations are working hard to engage the public.

According to NEA’s report, the leading barriers for attendance the arts include:

  • Lack of time: 47%
  • Cost: 38 %
  • Access: 37%
  • No one to go with: 22%

More specifically, 60 percent of those with children under age six said lack of time is the greatest single barrier to attendance. The NEA noted, “This finding could inspire arts providers to develop more family-friendly program options.” Others noted that the location was too difficult to get to, a significant problem for seniors and those with physical disabilities.

As an Atlanta CPA and advisory firm with a strong arts and culture practice, Smith & Howard is an advocate for overcoming these barriers and building strong support of our outstanding arts organizations. The good news is that many of Georgia’s arts and culture institutions are already addressing these barriers with exciting initiatives to boost participation and make locations more appealing.

Examples include:

  • Atlanta Ballet: Expanded its programming to engage audiences in different spaces, such as the Atlanta Botanical Gardenthe Piazza at the High and at the Serenbe Playhouse via their “Wabi Sabi” series.
  • Woodruff Arts Center: Received a $6.6 million grant to support “Art from the Start,” a new three-year program intended to provide families and students greater access to the center’s core arts and education work. The program includes designated family days with special access to the work of the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and free admission to the High Museum of Art.
  • High Museum of Art: The High has been hosting events on the Sifly Piazza through its “Plaza Activation” program that are outdoors, free and open to the public. They have included Spinning Tops, the Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi (mentioned above) and the very popular Mi Casa Your Casa that drew over 100,000 visitors.
  • Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre: The Centre’s ArtsBridge Foundation offers an educational program for school-age children interested in theatrical arts.

This is but a small list of the ways Atlanta’s arts and culture organizations are working to overcome the barriers to engagement. Each of these organizations is accessible via public transportation.

The Arts and GDP

One doesn’t usually equate the arts with the nation’s gross domestic product. Yet that’s exactly what the NEA was measuring as part of its research. In partnership with the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the NEA conducted a first-ever, in-depth analysis of the arts and cultural sector's contributions to the GDP.  The estimated findings reveal that the arts are a bigger driver of GDP and jobs than previously estimated.

Findings include:

  • In 2012, arts and cultural production contributed more than $698 billion to the U.S. economy, or 4.32 percent to the U.S. GDP,
  • In 2012, 4.7 million workers were employed in the production of arts and cultural goods, receiving $334.9 billion in compensation, and
  • Arts and cultural spending has a ripple effect on the overall economy, boosting both commodities and jobs. For example, for every 100 jobs created from new demand for the arts, 62 additional jobs are also created.

To bring the numbers to a state level, one study examined the economic impact of more than 300 arts and cultural organizations across Georgia. The result was close to $400 million and that number is trending upward. Without a doubt, a robust arts community is important in attracting big businesses to Atlanta. The arts are an integral part of the state’s economy, generating revenue in sales tax collections but also providing employment as Aurora Theatre founder Anthony Rodriguez recently shared, “We are a strong economic driver for our communities.”

At a time when Georgia funding of the arts ranks lowest in the country on the amount of state budget per resident that goes to arts (6 cents per resident vs Mississippi at 61 cents and Tennessee at $1.07 per resident) it is vital that our community gets involved. We can engage in our outstanding arts organizations in a number of ways, including financial support, membership, volunteering and attendance.

Serving many of Georgia's arts and culture organizations not only is good business for Smith & Howard, it allows us to help those organizations make smart financial decisions that enable them to achieve their goals. For information on the services Smith & Howard provides to arts and culture (and other nonprofit) organizations, please contact a member of our nonprofit accounting team at 404-874-6244.

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