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Milford Beacon
  • The arts are big business in Delaware

  • Representatives from the Delaware arts community were in Dover last week to hear the results of the Arts and Economic Prosperity study released earlier this year. The study paints a picture of big profit opportunities throughout the state.
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  • A who's who of artists and art supporters from up and down the state convened in Dover at the Schwartz Center for the Arts Oct. 2 to hear the results of the Arts and Economic Prosperity Report completed by Americans for the Arts, a 52-year-old non-profit organization that aims to connect more citizens to the arts opportunities in their communities.
    The study, which looked at 2010, occurs every six years and is a comprehensive endeavor, analyzing the economic activity generated by non-profit arts organizations. Nationally, the study showed that the industry generated $135.2 billion in economic activity indicating robust business that translated to full-time jobs, increased tax revenues and an increase in business outside the arts community. The study did not look at for-profit organizations or individual artists.
    But, the people attending Tuesday's presentation weren't there to hear about national trends. They were there to hear about the numbers in Delaware and what those numbers mean.
    And, the featured speaker, Nina Ozlu Tunceli, executive director of Americans for the Arts Action Fund and chief counsel for Americans for the Arts, did not disappoint, laying out numbers that indicate that the arts in Delaware represent a booming business.
    Her first order of business was getting the audience to recite one of the biggest numbers of the day: $142.3 million. This figure is the annual economic impact of non-profits in Delaware in 2010 and included the money that organizations spent to produce events as well as the amount that audiences spent before and after performances.
    The number was good news, considering that the state lost 17 percent of its arts audience that year compared to a national average of 2.7 percent.
    Next, Tunceli explained that this money also translated to 3,868 Delaware jobs.
    "You can see that the arts are feeding souls and putting food on the tables of the people who live here," Tunceli said.
    Gov. Jack Markell, who also spoke briefly at the event, said "talent wants to work where they live and the arts are essential to that."
    Additionally, $9.9 million was generated in local and state government revenue due to the $38.9 million that audiences regularly spent at local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages and other businesses, proving that there is a profitable trickle-down effect for businesses outside of the arts community.
    Audience spending is not limited to Delaware residents either. Out-of-state visitors often outspent locals by almost $38 and that number goes up if overnight lodging is included.
    Page 2 of 2 - Tunceli explained that while the numbers tell a positive story, a real "growth explosion" would occur with more local attendance.
    "So, if the cultural institutions in Delaware could develop a way to reignite those folks to come back to the programs that they used to come to just a few years ago, you will you see an increase in their own bottom lines as a result of earned income," Tunceli said.
    She added that ancillary spending before and after the programs would go up as well, leading to growth and jobs throughout the community.
    Eventually, the talk turned to what to do with these numbers. Delaware arts philanthropist Tatiana Copeland spoke, asking several pointed questions to the crowd:
    "What are we not doing to attract people," Copeland said. "And, what are you going to do about it?"
    She implored the crowd to be active and vocal with the government.
    "It's not just something nice to have here. The arts are critical," Copeland said. "It is the responsibility of the arts in Delaware to push governments for the investments."
    Tunceli added that community involvement also goes a long way toward expanding the benefits of the arts community, saying that it's important to turn attendants into patrons, both young and old.
    "Some real deliberate programming and strategic planning coordinated perhaps with other organizations within the community or the entire state that includes a campaign to get people to come back to their own grassroots cultural institutions and attending events again" would go a long way towards implementing the information and continuing the upward trend, Tunceli said.
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