Arts and Economic Prosperity III

​The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences (2007)​​​​

MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Arts Board recently announced the results of the most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted in the state. These results were compiled as part of a national report entitled Arts & Economic Prosperity III. The full Wisconsin report may be found here.

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 381 Wisconsin arts organizations as well as 6,210 audience surveys.

“Across Wisconsin, the arts and culture industry does mean business,” Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton said. “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.”

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 data revealed that Wisconsin’s nonprofit arts industry generates $418,055,786 in economic activity annually, including:

  • 15,103 full-time equivalent jobs
  • $276,424,120 in resident household income
  • $27,402,880 in local government revenues
  • $34,437,520 in state government revenues.

The $418,055,786 total includes $247,127,217 in spending by arts organizations and $170,928,569 in event-related spending by arts audiences—excluding the costs of admission. The $170,928,569 in event-related spending by arts audiences reflects an average of $22.51 per person in spending for hotels, restaurants, parking, souvenirs, refreshments, or other similar costs—with non-local attendees spending significantly more than local attendees ($48.95 compared to $17.76).

Nationally, according to the Americans for the Arts report, the nonprofit arts industry generates 5.7 million jobs and $166.2 billion in economic activity every year, resulting in $29.6 billion in federal, state, and local government revenues. The $166.2 billion total includes $63.1 billion in spending by arts organizations and $103.1 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 is a myth buster,” said Lynch. “Most Americans understand that the arts improve our quality of life. This study demonstrates that the arts are an industry that stimulates the economy in cities and towns across the country. A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive.”

The national study was supported by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and 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