Commentary: The arts are an economic force in the region



Someone once said, “The arts nourish the soul,” and I firmly believe it. Most would agree that the arts are important to a vibrant and creative community, but they still see artists and the arts as a plush or icing on the cake. The arts, in fact, are a force.

The arts can promote social change for good, empower people to express themselves and respond to their world, and can also have a strong economic impact.

The arts industry is often marginalized because of its economic contributions. In total, the arts have attracted more people and more money than the professional sports teams in Saint-Louis put together according to a study by RAC, our city’s regional arts commission.

Looking at another study done a few years ago by RAC, the St. Louis Business Journal reports that the arts are synonymous with business. The study conducted by RAC in partnership with Americans for the Arts found that the arts have an economic impact in St. Louis of $ 582 million and represent more than 10,000 jobs. Studies like this have been done in cities across the country and have had similar results.

Arts councils are always on the lookout for business financial assistance, and many local and national businesses have been very generous. But the arts themselves are a business that impacts our city.

Think about the audience. You can go to dinner and watch a show, whether it’s a play, a dance concert, a poetry reading, a symphonic concert, etc. Attending these types of events generates income for local businesses – restaurants, parking lots, hotels, retail stores and more. According to yet another study, the average arts attendee spends $ 24.60 per event on top of the cost of admission. Nationally, these audiences have provided $ 74.1 billion in valuable income to local traders and their communities.

Of course, the pandemic has taken its toll across the arts industry. The National Endowment for the Arts recently released new facts and figures showing the devastation that has taken place in the arts. In summary, in 2019, the unemployment rate for musicians was 1.1%, representing 3,000 professionals. In the third quarter of 2020, the rate rose to 27.1% and 56,000 professionals. With actors in 2019, the unemployment rate was 24.7% representing 11,000 professionals. In the third quarter of 2020, the rate rose to 52.3% and 28,000 professionals. And dancers and choreographers in 2019 had an unemployment rate of 10.7% or 3,000 professionals. In the third quarter of 2020, the rate rose to 54.6% and 8,000 professionals.

The NEA has many programs in place to help the arts and artists get back on their feet and finally things are starting to get better.

Locally, Ken Kranzberg and I are proud to be part of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. Under the leadership of Executive Director Chris Hansen, the foundation has a unique vision to provide infrastructure and training for artists and arts organizations so that they can function professionally and operate in state-of-the-art facilities.

The arts are one of Saint-Louis’ greatest assets.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for over forty years on numerous arts-related boards.


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