Study estimates economic impact of arts in Northwest Arkansas

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Northwest Arkansas’ nonprofit arts and culture sector generated an estimated $131.2 million in economic activity in 2015, according to a recent study from Americans for the Arts.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity Study, conducted nationally every five years, found that $67.5 million was generated in spending by arts and culture organizations and an additional $63.7 million came from event-related spending by their audiences. The activity, the report states, supported 4,647 jobs and generated $14 million in government revenue.

This year’s study documents the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture sector in 341 regions representing all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The Walton Arts Center served as the local project partner and was responsible for the local implentation and data collection requirements of the customized analysis of the Northwest Arkansas region.

Local data were collected from 23 organizations in Washington and Benton counties, and from 822 event attendees who completed a short survey about their event-related spending.

In the two-county area, attendees reported spending an average of $35.89 per person, per event as a direct result of their attendance at the event, not including the cost of admission.

That’s slightly higher than the national average of $31.47, and almost double the $19.54 per person spending in Washington and Benton counties in 2010.

In a press release, Walton Arts Center officials noted the increase in spending was due in part to an expanded Walmart AMP in Rogers (a WAC-operated venue) and the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

The report found that 25 percent of attendees traveled from outside of the county in which the event took place, and their event-related spending on average was 199 percent more per person than local attendees.

Of those who already live in the county in which the event took place, 42 percent said they would have traveled to a different community to attend a similar event if it were not taking place in their own area.

“This study changes the conversation about the arts from that of a ‘charity’ to one about an ‘industry’ that provides both cultural and economic benefits to the community,” said Randy Cohen, vice president of Research and Policy for the American for the Arts.

Cohen said the findings are timely considering current threats of cutting funding for nonprofit organizations.

“Arts organizations provide jobs, support the economy and the government while they also educate, entertain and increase our quality of lives,” said Cohen.

» Download the full local findings

Local participants

According to Americans for the Arts, the following Northwest Arkansas organizations provided detailed financial and event attendance information to help complete the most recent Arts & Economic Prosperity Study.

Arkansas Air & Military Museum
Arkansas Country Doctor Museum
Arts Center Of The Ozarks
Arts Live Theatre
Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
Chinese Association Of North West Arkansas
Crystal Bridges Museum Of American Art
Downtown Bentonville
Fayetteville Art Alliance
Fayetteville Public Library
Gentry Public Library Association
Glade Community Historical Society
Main Street Rogers
Museum Of Native American History
Northwest Arkansas Community Creative Center
Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society
Rogers Historical Museum
Scott Family Amazeum
Shiloh Museum Of Ozark History
Symphony of Northwest Arkansas
Tricycle Theatre for Youth
Walton Arts Center