Huffpost Detroit

Detroit Art, Culture Organizations Have Large Economic Impact

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Visitors at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich.
Visitors at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich.

A new report makes the case that the arts can be profitable in Michigan, with state spending on cultural programs bringing significant dollars to the economy.

Creative State Michigan is a comprehensive, visually enticing report released by ArtServe Michigan, which analyzes information from 211 of Michigan's 2,000-odd arts and culture nonprofits. These groups self-entered their financial information into the Michigan Cultural Data Project (CDP), a database that lets them track and analyze their performance, as well as give researchers usable data.

The analyzed groups come from all over both peninsulas, and 28 are based in Detroit.

"A large percent of the Michigan population goes to cultural events, a lot more than people would think," said Billy Hunter, who helped ArtServe analyze the CDP data with his organization, Data Driven Detroit.

And they have a big impact. For each dollar the state of Michigan spends on arts and culture, $51 goes back into the state economy. In Detroit alone, the 28 organizations included had total direct expenditures of more than $127 million and employed 2,657 staff.

"For a while we heard a lot of folks mention that public funding for the arts is a handout," said Mike Lativs, ArtServe Michigan's director of public policy. "This report shows the incredible impact that Detroit's arts and cultural organization have on the economy."

The data in the most recent report is from 2009 and 2010, but more organizations are using CDP each year, since many foundations are now requiring CDP reports as part of funding requests.

"They're making it mandatory so they have good data to go to the legislature with," said Hunter. "It's a good way to see what the arts really bring to the state."

Nancy Sizer, director of Detroit Artists Market, agrees that CDP has been helpful. "It's going to be really useful down the road, especially talking about the health of the Detroit art scene," she said.

Michael O'Callaghan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, sees arts and culture as a big draw for visitors to the city, 62 percent of whom come from outside the state. And of the 20 million visitors pouring into Detroit annually, 1 million come specifically for arts and cultural activities. According to the Creative State Michigan report, tourists spend a total of $2 billion statewide on arts and culture.

"I think this city and state are at a tipping point right now when it comes to understanding art and its importance to the community," O'Callaghan said.

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