The Economic Impact of the Arts

The Effect of the Arts on Economic Development

In the article “No Measure for Culture? Value in the New Economy” by Steven Bohm and Chris Land the authors propose three primary means of measuring the  economic impact of the arts : Direct Economic, Social, and Workforce Development.

The arts have often been measured in terms of their economic impact (direct and indirect) due to the attraction arts provide for tourism and urban redevelopment.  In Spokane the economic impact of a traveling broadway show is estimated to be in the millions. The construction of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and its affiliation with the Smithsonian has anchored a redevelopment of the Brownes Addition neighborhood in the core of Spokane, and the first tenants in the urban renewal of many parts of downtown were art galleries and performance theatres. 

Currently we see examples of this with the Wonder Bread building redevelopment and with the Sprague Avenue corridor where galleries like Art Spirit 2, Object Space, and New Moon Art Gallery offer the initial invitation for patrons to visit the neighborhood that has long been overlooked and left in disrepair.

Perhaps the greatest visible awareness of the economic benefit of the Arts in Spokane is the monthly The First Friday Artwalk. This monthly celebration of art fills the downtown core with customers who are spending money at the venues where art is being displayed.

Increased Livability

The second category of benefit is that of social participation and creativity that leads to innovation and increased human capital.  The arts are seen as increasing livability within a community and as a stimulant for creativity and innovation within organizations where participants are employed.  Bohm and Land cite organizations that encourage employees to participate in arts activities as a means of insuring their place within a competitive global industry.

The artistic endeavors employees do away from work tasks enhance and directly benefit their ability to work more creatively and efficiently which translates indirectly into economic benefit.  

Increased Employability

The third area of community impact is related to the second.  Arts training is viewed as an enhancement of employability.  The skills necessary for producing modern art relate directly to job skills in the information age.  In a presentation at Spokane Falls Community College, Global Data Literacy director Jordan Morrow emphasized that Creative Thinking was the number one job skill needed to be successful in the current economy. The ability to translate the big data that modern computing is generating into narrative stories is an important tool for sense making and decision making.

Design skills and media production are seen as highly sought skills for employability and community support for arts training is being viewed as an important economic development strategy. 

In the past fifteen years Spokane has built a downtown intercollegiate college campus with Washington State University’s interdisciplinary design institute as one of its cornerstones. Since then medical research has followed which has increased the public and private investment into the Spokane region.

Local non profit organizations like TinCan, Spark Central, Community Minded Television, and Spokane Public Library provide free access to media tools and training for local teens with the idea that these resources will result in a future workforce that will stay in Spokane instead of migrating to larger cities.

Simply put, communities that invest in the arts thrive. Having a robust arts community insures that cities have the human capital necessary to sustain economic prosperity and the creativity to address ever changing challenges that come about due to external world factors.

To find out more about the art community in Spokane go to:

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