Northwest Arkansas Arts Bring $131M in Economic Activity, Study Finds

Northwest Arkansas' nonprofit arts and culture industry is generating more than $130 million in economic activity, a study by a national arts-focused organization shows.

Roger Cohen with Americans for the Arts made the results of its study public today at the World Trade Center in Rogers, relying on 2015 data provided by nonprofit arts venues, theaters and museums from across Benton and Washington counties. The $131.2 million economic impact in 2015 was markedly higher than the $45.5 million in impact reported five years earlier.

The arts community of Northwest Arkansas has blossomed since the study of 2010 data was made public in 2012. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, the Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville and the Walmart AMP in Rogers were established after the earlier study, and the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville completed a massive renovation. Those factored into the incredible increase in economic activity.

Arts venues such as Rogers Historical Museum, Arkansas Air and Military Museum, Arts Center of the Ozarks, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and Shiloh Museum of Ozark History are recognized for increasing quality of life in Northwest Arkansas, but they also help attract talent to Northwest Arkansas. People who relocate from big cities expect to find museums, music venues, theatres and other arts-focused venues, and the arts community meets that expectation.

The economic activity in 2015 included $67.5 million in spending by arts and culture organizations and an additional $63.7 million in event-related spending by their audiences. The activity supported 4,647 jobs and generated $14 million in government revenue.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity Study is conducted nationally every five years. The study, which was completed for the fifth time using the 2015 data, documents the economic contributions of the nonprofit arts industry across the country as well as in 341 study regions, representing 50 states and the District of Columbia. Northwest Arkansas was the only Arkansas region included in the report.

“Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 quantifies the economic benefits of arts and culture organizations within a community,” said Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy for the American for the Arts. “This study changes the conversation about the arts from that of a ‘charity’ to one about an ‘industry’ that provides both cultural and economic benefits to the community.”

Cohen said the nonprofit arts community provides jobs far beyond their own operations because of the broad number of other businesses they indirectly support. Their audiences spent money on such things as going out to dinner before a show, to park at a garage near a venue, and on clothes to be certain they look sharp for a night on the town, he said.

Walton Arts Center staff compiled data for the study from 23 eligible nonprofit arts and cultural organizations located in Northwest Arkansas. Each partner provided detailed budget information for Fiscal Year 2015, including labor, payments to local and nonlocal artists, operations, administration, programming, facilities and capital expenditures/asset acquisition. Patrons also were surveyed about spending around their attendance to arts events.

The key Northwest Arkansas findings include:

  • Nearly 1.8 million people attended arts and culture events in Northwest Arkansas. Event-related spending by these attendees totaled $63.7 million, excluding the cost of admission, or roughly $35.89 per person. That’s slightly higher than the national average of $31.47 per person and almost double the $19.54 per person spending in the Northwest Arkansas region documented by Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, covering Fiscal Year 2010.
  • 25 percent of audience members traveled from outside of the county in which the event took place. Their event-related spending on average was more per person than local attendees ($71.20 vs. $23.85).
  • 86  percent of nonlocal attendees indicated that the primary purpose of their visit was “specifically to attend this arts or cultural event.”
  • 42 percent of local attendees who were surveyed said they would have traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event, if the arts event they wanted to attend was not taking place.