The Arts Feel Good in the Economy

What does Westchester County have in common with Chicago and Boston?  They are all robust creative centers having more than 5% of their businesses designated as belonging to the creative industry sector.  So says a report from Americans for the Arts (AFTA) which cites all three locations as places where designers, photographers, filmmakers, gallerists, musicians and artistic practitioners of all kinds live, work and play. What’s attractive about these locations is that the creative arts are abundant. AFTA’s Creative Industries: Business & Employment in the Arts report provides a research-based approach to understanding the scope and economic importance of the arts in America.

The Creative Industries are defined as arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. The report makes the point that arts businesses and the creative people they employ stimulate innovation, strengthen America’s competitiveness and play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy.

The National perspective is also compelling. It accounts for 673,656 businesses involved in the creation or distribution of the arts, and 3.48 million people employed in the creative sector. However, while nationwide, 4.01 % of all U.S. businesses and 2.04 % of all U.S. employees are working in the creative sector, Westchester has a higher than average percentage of creative businesses at 5.3%—on par with Chicago and Boston, demonstrating statistically that the arts are a formidable presence in our county. The arts are far more than a “feel good.” They are a power economic driver pumping $172 million into the economy and are responsible for over 5,000 jobs. We need to think more strategically about investing in the arts to drive more revenue to the hospitality and entertainment industries. A study commissioned by ArtsWestchester concluded that residents spend an extra $21 in addition to the price of admission when attending a cultural event; tourists spend an additional $28.  Yes, the arts feel good, especially in our pocketbooks.