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The Economic Impact of the Arts

Executive Director's Letter
January 13, 2015

Since publishing his influential work, The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida has remained a steady, if sometimes controversial, instigator of dialogue about the impact of the cultural sector on the economy and well being of communities. In a recent Atlantic magazine article, Florida writes about a new study on cultural clusters as economic drivers that reinforce the connection between the arts and city building. This connection has been made abundantly clear in Maryland and Baltimore City through other studies, including the Americans for the Arts' Arts and Economic Prosperity IV report on Baltimore City and the Maryland State Arts Council’s recently released report, Economic Impact of the Arts in Maryland, which found that the nonprofit arts industry contributed $1 billion to the state economy in 2013.

Today, politicians, planners, civic and business leaders are understanding and more deeply engaging the cultural sector in community building, development, neighborhood investment and in the success of school children. Cultural organizations, large and small, along with the increasing number of artists living and working in Baltimore, represent tremendous assets and create opportunities for strengthening the economy and helping address some of the areas most pressing problems.

We are well past (or should be) the argument that arts and culture are somehow frivolous, extraneous, or only for the privileged. Studies demonstrate that arts education is an essential part of a complete education and we believe a birthright of every child, not just those in well-resourced settings. Also in the rearview mirror is the stereotype of the hermit, antisocial artist waiting for a hand out, or arts organization that considers itself the purview of a rarified audience, unconnected to the broader community.

To take it back to the national level, check out the National Endowment for the Arts' research findings released today that calculates the total national economic impact of the arts to be $698 BILLION to the U.S. economy, or 4.2 percent of the gross domestic product.

Oh, another impact of the cultural sector? Changing lives and celebrating the human spirit…


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