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Arts Hold Steady Despite Recession

Laura Spencer

Two national studies released Thursday in Kansas City provide an overview of the arts ecology of the metropolitan area. By all accounts, the arts boosted the local economy despite the economic downturn.

Arts and elected officials gathered in the auditorium at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Artto hear the results of two studies conducted by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts: Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, focusing on the impact of arts-related spending, and Local Arts Index, measuring audience participation.

Arts Generate Economic Activity

The Arts & Economic Prosperity study is conducted every five years. According to the research, the arts industry across the nation generates $135 billion in economic activity, including $61.1 billion by the nation's nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

The Kansas City metropolitan area, with a 2010 population of just over 1.7 million, was one of 182 "study regions" nationwide participating. The Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City collected 1,750 audience surveys and detailed budget and attendance information from nearly 90 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

According to the study, arts organizations and audiences in the Kansas City region spent more than $273 million. Arts and cultural organizations sustained more than 8,300 full-time jobs, and provided more than than $237 million in household income. The arts also generated nearly $22 million in revenue for state and local governments; this includes more than $9 million in the Kansas City area, and more than $12.8 million for the states of Kansas and Missouri.

Studies Help Tell "Our Story"

Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City's president and CEO Harlan Brownlee says studies like these conducted by Americans for the Arts will help officials tell "our collective story" about the impact of the arts. The Arts Council represents five counties, including Clay, Platte, and Jackson in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte in Kansas.

Brownlee says some of the findings were surprising, including that the region participates more in the arts than the national average. The Kansas City region scored 20 percent higher than the national average; it also ranked third (out of 15 multi-county regions) in overall participation in arts and cultural activities.

"What this means is that the average Kansas Citian participated more in the arts than the average New York resident, participated more than Twin Cities, but participated less than St. Louis or in Washington, D.C.," says Brownlee.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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