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National Arts Policy Leader Visits Houston

HOUSTON, TX.-Arts, tourism and business have more in common than most Houstonians realize according to Americans for the Arts Vice President of Policy and Research, Randy Cohen. Cohen presented the findings of a recent study that measured the financial impact of the non-profit arts industry nationally as well as here in Houston to the leadership from more than 200 Houston arts organizations, economic development leaders and tourism leaders. Utilizing the results, Cohen advised how to influence greater investment in the arts to expand tourism, create jobs and attract high-paying corporations to the region.

The findings are the result of the third such national survey conducted by Washington, D.C. based Americans for the Arts, in partnership with nearly 150 cities and counties. The study, Arts & Economic Prosperity III, depicts the economic activity of non-profit arts organizations as well as their audiences.

“The importance of this study nationally is that it demonstrates the size, impact and growth of the arts sector within the broader economy,” said Houston Arts Alliance CEO, Jonathon Glus. “As the American economy has shifted to become increasingly more knowledge-based, the arts stand out as a disproportionately large growth area. Randy conceptualized and managed each of the three studies and has spent hundreds of hours tracking how the findings have been used in various cities to further the non-profit arts sector. By inviting Randy to Houston, we bring the best informed resource in the country.”

The research, based on data gathered from non-profit arts and cultural organizations, showed the following:
On the national level, the arts industry grew by more than 24 percent in the past five years, while the Gross Domestic Product grew at 12 percent;
In Houston, the non-profit arts are a $626.3 million industry , which generates $69.5 million in local and state government revenue;
The non-profit arts in Houston support 14,115 jobs, which is nearly the size of the City of Bellaire as well as The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“I want people to realize cultural and arts organizations in Houston are an industry,” said Cohen in a presentation. “Arts and culture organizations are good businesses for a city, because they are involved deeply in the community. They are not a luxury. In addition to quality-of-life, education and youth-at-risk issues, they are good for attracting and retaining quality employees. Also, people can work anywhere now. My research has discovered that desirable potential hires will seek out cities where arts and culture flourish and business follow these valuable workers.”

The study confirmed that arts tourists visiting Houston spend an average of $82.10 per visit versus local event attendees who spend $24.82. These expenditures do not include the price of event admission, but rather the monies spent on transit, food, lodging, etc., all of which create an economic ripple through many other business sectors. The report showed that 15 percent of the people enjoying Houston’s arts and culture activities and venues are visitors to the region, which produces $1.6 million. Though substantial in real dollars, the 15 percent figure is low by comparison to other major cities in the United States.

“Arts and culture organizations are a cornerstone of tourism. They bring more money into the regional economy per capita than almost all other types of tourists,” said Glus, “The arts in Houston are one of the greatest hidden cultural gems in the country and continue to grow rapidly. The findings underscore the opportunity we have to position Houston on the national stage as a must-see cultural city.”

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