The arts are a big business in Sarasota, and that business is a booming.
At a tune of $180 million spent by non-profit arts organizations in Sarasota County, that's three times the national average, according to a report conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts.
Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, visited Sarasota this week where he released a snapshot of a study conducted in Sarasota County in 2010 of how much the arts mean as a business to the area.
"When we invest in the arts, we invest in an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue and is a cornerstone of tourism," Cohen said during a Arts and Cultural Alliance luncheon Tuesday at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Sarasota County was one of 182 communities studied for the report, and in the county 60 non-profit arts organizations were sent surveys and 39 organizations responded, Cohen said. Economists from Georgia Tech University helped compile the data for the report, he said.
For-profit arts ventures such as move theaters, private galleries or individual artists were not a part of the study, he said.
Let's get straight to the numbers:
- $180 million spent in 2010 by arts organizations in Sarasota County
- $12 million of arts spending produces Florida state revenue
- $7.6 million in taxes that goes to local governments revenue in Sarasota County
- $50.7 million estimated spending by arts attendees on dining, hotels, parking, etc. in 2010
- 2.3 million total attendees to arts and cultural events
- 4,579 full-time equivalent jobs created through arts organizations' spending
- The full-time jobs in the arts is twice as large as the national median (2,719)
- Typical arts event attendee spends $21.70 per per event, per person not including admission
- 41 percent of attendees are from outside Sarasota County (national average is 32 percent from outside county)
- 57 percent of nonlocal attendees said "this arts event is their primary purpose for their trip."
- Non-local attendees spend $27.93 per event compared to $17.42 for Sarasota County residents
- 1,882 arts-related businesses in Sarasota County employ 5,052 people
- Arts-related businesses make up 4.3 percent of all businesses in Sarasota County
- 2.3 percent of all employees in the county work for an arts-related business, higher than the national average
Cohen said that even for a down economy when those numbers were collected in 2010, it's a good sign and he believes those numbers are stronger in 2012.
How can Sarasota County put this to use?
Experts at a round table, including Cohen, said there has to be opportunities to include creativity and arts in every field and it doesn't have to be expensive.
In one example, Cohen gave, Seattle government features Seattle musicians for their hold music when you call government offices, and the mayor promotes each artist telling where you can buy their music.
In upstate New York, high theft of manhole covers by scrap metal thieves prompted a town there to have local artists create designs on the new manholes.
For Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, that part of the arts mission should including keeping college graduates in Sarasota and having jobs and internships available here to keep the students after they receive their degree.
"Young people, some will go off to LA, New York and so forth, but many of them would like to stay here," he said.
Cohen also said that the younger generation picks where they want to live first now, opting for a vibrant city, then will seek employment instead of the other way around.
To bring those folks to Sarasota, the region needs to pursue cutting edge art and technology and embrace it, Thompson said.
"People want to have a vibrant and exciting place to live and in order to have that vibrancy, we need to invest in the arts and the cutting edge stuff that attracts the young people," he said.