Updated: Dec 7, 2017
Winston-Salem, NC (June 21, 2017) – A study led by Americans for the Arts and conducted by economists from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Forsyth County are having a huge impact on the local economy. The Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 Study was conducted using budgetary figures from 2015 and cultural audience surveys in 2016. The figures show that combined spending by the nonprofit art and cultural sector in Forsyth County and their audiences was $156.8 million, up some $20 million from five years ago when the last study was made.
“It is abundantly clear from this benchmark study that arts and culture is an economic driver in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and ‘City of Arts and Innovation’ is more than just a tagline. It is a fact of life here,” said Jim Sparrow, President and CEO of The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County which commissioned the local portion of the comprehensive nationwide study.
Forsyth County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry supports 5,559 full time equivalent jobs, up from 4,769; accounts for more than $129 million in resident household income, and generated more than $14.8 million in local and state tax revenues. In every category, Forsyth County substantially exceeded the median of similar study regions and the national median.
The nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $2.12 billion in direct economic activity in North Carolina, supporting almost 72,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $201.5 million in revenue for local governments and the State of North Carolina.
Nationally, it generated $166.3 billion of economic activity during 2015—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments (a yield well beyond their collective $5 billion in arts allocations).
Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, the nation’s advocacy organization for the arts, came to Winston-Salem to announce the results of the local component of the study and to brief arts advocates, public officials, arts and cultural organization professionals, and media on the results of the study. Cohen is a noted expert in the field of arts funding, research, policy, and using the arts to address community development issues. Kristin Cooper, First Lady of North Carolina; Susi Hamilton, NC Secretary of Natural and Cultural Affairs; and Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the North Carolina Arts Council, participated in the announcement and made comments.
Cohen revealed that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, which spent almost $105 million during 2015, leveraged a remarkable $52 million in additional spending by their audiences – spending that pumped revenue into restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages, and other local businesses. From 2000 forward, Total Economic Impact has been $76.6 million (2000); $103.9 million (2005); $136.6 million (2010); and $156.8 million (2016).
About 60 percent of Forsyth County nonprofit arts and cultural organizations participated in the study and nearly 800 event goers were surveyed about their spending. In addition to the price of tickets, they averaged spending $21.38 per person, all dollars that went into the local economy. About 65 percent of people who attended nonprofit arts and cultural events in Forsyth County were residents of the county..
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem paid to have Forsyth County included in the nationwide benchmark study by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advocating the arts. The North Carolina Arts Council participated, also. This is the fourth time Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have participated in the studies which are conducted at five-year intervals. Over the years this study has been noted for its credibility which is based on the reputations of internationally recognized economists and statistical models and the input of researchers at Georgia Tech and elsewhere.
“As mayor, I see the value of the arts from many viewpoints. They make a huge contribution to our quality of life which helps us attract new businesses and retain current ones. I have learned to talk about the arts right up front,” said Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines. “Look at the boards of our arts and cultural groups and you will see prominent members of our business community. They tell me our arts and cultural offerings are among the strongest recruiting tools for our creative economy,” said Joines. “And we certainly appreciate the substantial contribution the arts make to our local and state tax coffers!”
David Plyler, Chair of the Forsyth County Commissioners, said, “This study should put to rest any misconception that public support of the arts comes at the expense of other programs and services. In fact, as the study points out, communities that support the arts are investing in an industry that creates jobs, has impressive payrolls, generates tax revenue, and attracts visitors.”
The study confirmed what arts and cultural agencies have known for decades – volunteers make a tremendous contribution to their operations and sustainability. During 2015, a total of 6,227 volunteers donated 278,974 hours to Forsyth County’s participating organizations. This donation of time has an aggregate value of $6,572,627. The aggregate value of in-kind contributions from individuals, business and others was $1,934,824.
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County was established in 1949 and was the first locally established arts council in the United States. The Arts Council enriches the quality of life for people in Winston-Salem and neighboring communities by raising funds for the arts, advocating for the arts, sponsoring events in conjunction with other arts organizations, providing arts education in schools, strengthening cultural resources, developing social capital, and aiding economic development. The Arts Council’s continued effectiveness can be attributed to the thousands of dedicated volunteers and contributors who are firmly committed to the idea that Winston-Salem is a “City of Arts and Innovation.”