Connecticut nonprofits working in the arts and culture industry help generate $653 million in annual economic activity, according to a recent study.
Americans for the Arts, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit dedicated to advancing the arts, conducted the study to assess the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in roughly 180 regions and communities nationwide.
Connecticut arts organizations generate roughly 84 percent more direct expenditures and 47 percent more jobs compared with the median in similar regions. The arts in Connecticut sustain 18,314 full-time jobs and $463 million in resident household income, according to the study.
“The arts have a much higher impact here than they do in most other places,” said Kip Bergstrom, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), one of the organizations that commissioned the study. “It might not be that visible. But it’s there.”
The idea of the arts as an economic engine is nothing new to the DECD, Bergstrom said. About a year ago, the department announced it would realign its art grants around the concept of the arts as a way to make the state’s communities more vibrant and interesting places to live and work.
Unlike most other industries, the arts leverage a significant amount of event-related spending, such as paying to park a car, purchase dinner and pay for a babysitter back home, according to the study.
As a result, an individual spends $23.10 on average outside of the cost of attendance when going to an arts event. The study concludes that an investment in the arts is an investment in jobs, tourism and government revenue. Connecticut state and local governments earn approximately $59 million a year from the arts.
Accompanying the study, earlier this month the DECD forwarded $2.6 million in art grants to the general assembly for approval. The list of about 140 projects ranges from small performances at school workshops to year-long projects using art to reach out to disadvantaged populations. Some $343,000 will go to projects in Fairfield County.
“Connecticut inspires art; I think it always has,” Bergstrom said. “Many towns and villages started out as art colonies. We are a muse, if not the muse for many artists. Maybe they have one foot in New York and another in Connecticut, but they have inspiration in our places. It helps them create. That’s why the artists are here.”
With more than $150,000 in state grants this summer, the Bridgeport Arts & Cultural Council (BACC) successfully launched two programs – City Canvases and B2 – which brought in at least 6,000 participants, said Jaimee Moxham, BACC events manager.
City Canvases, an event that took place across seven different cities, including Bridgeport, projected digital shorts for 12 weeks onto downtown buildings to attract more visitors, while B2 is a free ongoing art and cultural program, featuring music, dance and play performances, Moxham said.
Up to 400 vendors, musicians and artists have participated in the events since July, Moxham said, bringing more people into spaces they normally wouldn’t go.
“You’re inviting people to places that would normally be vacant or unattractive,” Moxham said. “It draws people there and makes it a safer place. If you have more people in your space, it makes it comesalive. It makes people want to come.”
Moxham said the events have been slowly growing and that the council would like to more seamlessly collaborate with the rest of Bridgeport’s restaurants and retail stores in the future.
“It seems like (the programs) have definitely put a boost into something that had been brewing for a while, but now it’s starting to bubble out into other communities,” Moxham said. “We’re thinking eventually it will have more momentum and be more popular.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Gallagher.