Wisconsin's Nonprofit Arts Industry Continues High Performance In Tough Economic Times

​MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Arts Board joins Americans for the Arts in announcing the results of a comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry conducted in Wisconsin over the past two years.  The study reveals that local nonprofit arts organizations generate $535 million in economic activity annually, resulting in nearly $65 million in local and state tax revenues, 22,872 in full-time equivalent jobs and $479 million in resident income. 

These results were compiled as part of a national report entitled Arts & Economic Prosperity IV released today. A PDF version of the full Wisconsin report may be found here.

“Across Wisconsin, the arts and culture industry does mean business,” Arts Board Chairperson Barbara Lawton stated.  “Investment in the arts is just that—an investment in organizations that generate revenue and employ thousands, and an investment in the vitality of a community. Investment in the arts is capital ventured to intensify an area’s magnetic pull for new economic opportunity.  Our state's investment builds the cultural infrastructure that attracts talent and commerce and lends resiliency to regional economies. ”

The Wisconsin study was commissioned by the Wisconsin Arts Board as part of its legislative mandate to study the arts in Wisconsin. The Arts Board also helped to facilitate the gathering of the detailed economic data from 326 Wisconsin arts organizations as well as 4,595 audience surveys.  The study measures only the impact provided by organizations and audiences, and excludes spending by individual artists and the for-profit arts and entertainment sector (like Broadway or the film industry).

“This study underlines the profound value of the connection between the arts and tourism economy in Wisconsin,” said Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. “Communities that invest in the arts are also enriching their tourism experience.  The Department’s Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grant program offers countless examples of how the tourism industry has partnered with their local arts community to market the arts experience to travelers and in turn grow visitor spending and generate tax revenues.”

In this study, economic impact is defined as the employment (full-time equivalent jobs), resident household income (salary, wages, proprietary income), and government revenue (taxes, license fees, and all the ways governments collect revenue) generated by the dollars spent in the community by nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences.

The $535 million total includes $340 million in spending by arts organizations and $195 million in event-related spending by arts audiences – excluding the costs of admission.

The $195 million in event-related spending by arts audiences reflects an average of $19.06 per person in spending for hotels, restaurants, parking, souvenirs, refreshments, or other similar costs—with non-local attendees spending significantly more than local attendees ($33.02 compared to $17.73).

Nationally, according to the Americans for the Arts report, the nonprofit arts industry generates 4.1 million jobs and $135.2 billion in economic activity every year, resulting in $22.3 billion in federal, state, and local government revenues. The $135.2 billion total includes $61.1 billion in spending by arts organizations and $74.1 billion in event-related spending by arts audiences.

Lawton’s remarks were echoed by Robert L. Lynch, Americans for the Arts President and CEO. “This study shines a much-needed light on the vital role the arts play in stimulating and sustaining economic development,” said Lynch. “Contrary to popular belief, the arts are a bustling industry that supports a plethora of diverse jobs, generates significant revenues for local businesses and to federal, state and local governments and provides quality of life that positions communities to compete in our 21st century creative economy.”

The national study was supported by The Ruth Lilly Fund of Americans for the Arts. Americans for the Arts’ local and statewide project partners—such as the Wisconsin Arts Board—contributed both time and financial support to the study. The full text of the report is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org/EconomicImpact.

The Wisconsin Arts Board is the state agency which nurtures creativity, cultivates expression, promotes the arts, supports the arts in education, stimulates community and economic development and serves as a resource for people of every culture and heritage.

The mission of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism is to market the state as the Midwest’s premier travel destination by executing industry-leading marketing programs and establishing strategic partnerships. The Department plays a significant role in generating greater economic impact and jobs for Wisconsin. The portal for traveler information can be found at www.travelwisconsin.com.

Founded in 1960, Americans for the Arts​ is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.  Americans for the Arts' mission is to serve, advance, and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. ​