Articulate On The Cover September 2018

Economic Infusion: The arts have $105 million impact on Greater Gainesville – report

Written By: Melanie Prescott

Dance. Opera. Theatre. Activities such as these that comprise the arts are an integral component to the culture and well-being of every community. The arts enrich the lives of community members in various ways, such as education, health and the economy. Whether it’s a performance of the Nutcracker at Christmastime or local artists showcasing their work at festivals, Gainesville residents are given an opportunity to explore and interact with creativity that gives back to the community in more ways than one.    

“The more enhanced our cultural environment is, the more people will be inclined to move to Gainesville,” said Lee May, executive director of Dance Alive National Ballet. “That’s one of our major goals here.”

Dance Alive National Ballet is a professional ballet company in Gainesville with local and international dancers who tour throughout the United States and places around the world, such as Brazil, Russia and Bulgaria. The company has performed, instructed and supported artistic endeavors in the Gainesville community for more than 52 years since its founding in 1966.

“It’s pretty incredible for an organization [a professional ballet company] to exist that long,” said Judy Skinner, director of grants and arts education programming and choreographer-in-residence at Dance Alive National Ballet. “To be able to sustain and pay dancers for that long; it’s nothing short of a miracle, especially in a community this size.”

The performances and classes given by Dance Alive National Ballet provide examples of how the arts can make an economic impact in a community. For Alachua County, the arts and culture industry contributes nearly $105 million in annual economic activity as reported in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study conducted by Americans for the Art. The economic activity translates to 2,847 full-time jobs, a local revenue of more than $3.5 million and a state revenue of about $5 million.

The direct economic impact of Dance Alive National Ballet to the Gainesville community is more than $1.5 million, which was calculated using the same formula as in the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study. Through touring alone, the Dance Alive brought $132,387 in revenue from 2017 to 2018. With 25 to 30 artists, designers and technical associates, these paid salaries lead to more local revenue through rent payments, house payments and the typical living expenses of those employees.

Apart from ticket sales and paid salaries, the arts provide further economic impact in the community through audience spending. Audience members are more likely to pay for parking, eat at local restaurants and purchase merchandise upon attending an arts event. Also, audience members from out of town are more likely to pay for a hotel in addition to spending locally.

Despite the proven impact the arts contribute to a community, especially the economy, the state budget for the arts and culture industry continues to decline.

“A big source [of funding] for us used to be grants, [but] state grants have been cut considerably,” Skinner said. “This year I was able to apply for $78,000; we got $5,222, which is only 6 percent of what we asked for.”

For Alachua County, the arts and culture industry contributes nearly $105 million in annual economic activity, which translates to 2,847 full-time jobs, a local revenue of more than $3.5 million and a state revenue of about $5 million.

Before budget cuts were imposed, a state grant covered all performances and touring materials for the entire year upon meeting the state guidelines and criteria. Two years ago, Dance Alive National Ballet received about $36,000 in grants before it was reduced to $17,000 last year. For this year’s grant, the Division of Cultural Affairs had to make additional reductions.

A week before the Division of Cultural Affairs met, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School happened, Skinner said.

“And so, all of the arts funding was cut, and went to that,” Skinner said.

The steady decrease in funding to the arts in the Gainesville community, along with the rest of the state, will negatively affect the county’s economy and will impede further development in the community. Studies such as the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 demonstrate how economically substantial the arts are to a community’s well-being and affluence.

Selling points for people moving to a new city include good education and the arts. The thought of being in Greater Gainesville and not being able to go to a place like the Harn Museum of Art or the Hippodrome Theatre is unimaginable, Skinner said.

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