A View of the Arts in 2007

Phoenix arts economy is flourishing
Kyle Lawson
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 6, 2007

People may not realize it, but Phoenix maintains a thriving growth industry: the arts.

A national survey released today states that the city’s non-profit cultural institutions and their audiences contributed $361 million to the Valley’s economy during 2005.

That represents an increase of 38 percent in local arts spending since 2000, when the last survey was conducted. That survey was released in 2002. In terms of generated revenues and attendance, the total places Phoenix well ahead of most cities and regions with populations of 1 million or more. And it is more than the $311 million in economic impact generated by the 2007 Cactus League.

Indeed, one of the most surprising revelations in the study: Arts events attracted 6.1 million people in 2005, more than attended the 2007 FBR Open and Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals games combined.

The survey also estimates that local arts groups directly or indirectly support 11,164 jobs, more than 10 times the national median for that category.

The figures are contained in “Arts & Economic Prosperity III,” compiled by Americans for the Arts, a cultural advocacy group based in New York and Washington, D.C. Across the nation, 156 communities participated in the project, the most extensive of its kind ever conducted, said Phil Jones, executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

Data was collected from 67 city arts institutions, including Ballet Arizona, Arizona Opera, Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Theatre Company and smaller troupes.

Although the first survey involved seven Valley communities, the 2005 report concentrated on Phoenix, with three East Valley communities compiling their own statistics.

“The first survey showed that, Valley-wide, arts institutions and patrons spent $344 million,” Jones said. In 2005, “that figure was $361 million for Phoenix alone. I think that is pretty significant in terms of just how fast the arts are growing here and their strong economic impact.”

The report also indicates that institutions and patrons of Chandler, Mesa and Tempe spent $82 million in 2005.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said he wasn’t surprised to learn that the arts were an economic power in the city.

“Years ago, Jim Ballinger of the Phoenix Art Museum taught me that, if the art museum itself were a business, it would be one of the largest businesses in Arizona,” Gordon said.

“What is surprising is the magnitude of the growth. I’ve always felt that you can’t have a great city without the arts. This is proof that we’re getting there. Phoenix is becoming one of the great cities of the 21st century.”

Kevin Myers, executive director of Ballet Arizona, appreciates the encouragement.

“We’ve known for some time that the ballet is doing well; we’ve seen a 20 to 40 percent growth in revenues every year for the past four years,” he said. “What pleasantly surprises me is to learn that the ballet is not alone in its success. The public appreciates that this is a city that enhances the lives of its residents.”

It’s about time the arts received some recognition, Cheryl Weiner of Scottsdale said. Weiner regularly attends symphony concerts, theater productions and events at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

“People don’t appreciate the arts and the quality of our artists,” she said. “I find that depressing. I’m a native of Boston and, when I came here, I was apprehensive about what I was going to find. Instead, I was impressed by the work. I hope this survey convinces more people to attend local events. If we don’t engage in what is here, it’s going to go away.”

The survey breaks the Phoenix figures down into $133 million spent by arts groups and $228 million by patrons. The latter figure does not include the price of admission but does include money spent on dining, transportation, souvenirs and other items connected with the arts experience.

Not everyone spending money on the arts is strictly local, not by a long shot.

“During the gathering of the data, we discovered that 60 percent of those attending city events came from outside Maricopa County,” Jones said. “They each spent an average of $45 beyond what they paid for tickets.”

Although the numbers are impressive, Jones noted that they’re also useful. The survey’s greatest benefit will be as “an invaluable advocacy tool,” he said.

“We now have something to take to the City Council and the state Legislature that shows in a quantifiable manner just how strong an impact the arts have on this community.”

Jones’ office receives in the neighborhood of $1 million in annual tax dollars to distribute among non-profit groups and artists.

“Thanks to this survey, we can show that the $1 million leverages $17 million in local tax revenues and $22.5 million in state tax revenues,” he said.

“That’s a pretty good return on an investment.”