The economic impact of the arts spreads beyond Arts Fest

July 12, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 2018 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is in full swing, and as more than 100,000 visitors inject millions of dollars into the local economy, Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State, said she hopes the county’s showcase arts event acts as a reminder that “the arts mean business.”

In 2012, the Americans for the Arts released the findings of a large-scale national study, which included Centre County and offered an in-depth look into the economic impact the arts have on local economies. In 2018, the organization offered the results of its fifth national study, which confirms the arts are a major economic driver across the country.

Following the release of the findings, Coe teamed with George Trudeau, director of the Center for Performing Arts, to author an op-ed for release in local publications, which shed light on the numbers.

“When you start talking in dollars and cents about the economic impact of the arts on our community, it’s quite significant, but it often goes unnoticed,” Coe said. “George and I are partnering to advocate for the arts and elevate awareness in our community.”

The data specific to Centre County shows that the arts:

  • Generate $22.5 million in direct economic activity — $10 million in spending by arts and cultural organizations and $12.5 million in event-related expenditures by their audiences;
  • Support 700 full-time equivalent jobs, positions that are rooted in Centre County and can’t be outsourced;
  • Produce $2.5 million in government revenue, created by arts organizations through employment and the purchase of goods and services;
  • Create $12.5 million in event-related spending by arts audiences, an average of $26.90 per person per event, excluding the cost of admission — dollars that land in the pockets of local businesses;
  • Attract people to Centre County and drive tourism; 37 percent of audiences came from outside Centre County and, on average, they spent three-and-a-half times what their local counterparts did on meals, transportation and retail sales.

Zooming out, the findings compiled from numbers across the nation, with an eye on Pennsylvania, reveal similar economic benefits that demonstrate the arts:

  • Generate $166.3 billion of economic activity; $3.4 billion in Pennsylvania;
  • Support 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs, more than 100,000 in Pennsylvania;
  • Produce $27.5 billion in government revenue, $402 million in Pennsylvania;
  • Attract people to communities, generating tourism and arts-related spending. Two-thirds of nonlocal attendees indicated the primary reason for their visit was to attend an arts event.

“The Arts Fest foregrounds this whole discussion because it has already demonstrated that it drives the local economy,” Coe said. “But it puts it into a different context because the Palmer is here year-round, the Center for the Performing Arts and other arts organizations in the region are here year-round. We’re providing enriching experiences, and promotion of that is extremely important.”

Relaying the message of the arts as an economic driver is part of the Palmer’s outreach mission, which Coe said is well-received in the culturally rich community.

“Highlighting the fact that the arts increase tourism and stimulate the economy can hopefully lead to the understanding that engaging and uplifting arts experiences provide long-lasting economic benefit,” Coe said. “In return we get jobs, increased economic activity and government revenue. The arts mean business and because of that everyone wins.”

  • Arts Festival Poster 2018

    The poster for the 2018 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts was designed by Lanny Sommese, professor emeritus of graphic design at Penn State. Sommese has designed the poster annually since 1974, but this year's edition marks the first time that the festival jester has been depicted as a woman. 

    IMAGE: Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts
Last Updated July 18, 2018