Economic Impact of the Arts in Alberta

file0001167812349The Alberta Foundation for the Arts recently (ish) released a report called Arts Impact: Ripple Effects from the Arts Sector. While I, admittedly, haven’t read the whole report (64 pages!) I thought one section in particular would be worth sharing: the Economic Impact of the Arts in Alberta. From my time spent working in the nonprofit sector, we seem to have a love-hate relationship with economic impact.

On the one hand, we love it! The nonprofit sector, including the arts, is a huge economic driver, whether you look at spinoff spending (ie. people going out to eat before or after shows), revenues that organization’s take in, the number of people employed – directly or indirectly – by the sector, or the number of volunteers involved in the sector.

On the other hand, we hate quantifying our economic impact. A volunteer’s time is not equivalent to an employee’s time – I’ve heard that again and again. The OUTCOMES of the arts – or the nonprofit sector as a whole – is much greater than the OUTPUT. The outcomes are larger societal objectives, and how do you quantify, for example, an increased understanding and acceptance of those in situations other than our own? How do you quantify the fact that people who participate in the arts feel more connected to their communities?

So, I skipped to page 24 and found some really interesting facts:

  • The nonprofit arts sector in Alberta is much larger ($88M in revenue) than the for-profit arts sector ($35.8M in revenue) in Alberta, even though that statistic is reversed everywhere else in Canada except the prairies ($752M revenues for nonprofits vs. $795M revenues for for-profits);
  • Starting in 2007-2008, there as a huge spike in both expenses and revenues which only started leveling off in 2009-2010. At that same time, the number of arts organizations decreased by 15 between 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 (from 450 to 437), before shooting back up to 464 in 2009-2010. Seems like a more stable financial environment (controlled expenses and revenues) breeds more arts organizations.
  • The total output of the arts sector is roughly $378 million. This is broken up into:
    • $188 million in direct output (spending money to produce events)
    • $70 million expenditure by the sector
    • $120 million induced output (workers and suppliers who receive money from the arts sector)
  • Organizations receiving funding from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts employ 2,956 people:
    • 669 full-time
    • 2,287 part-time
  • Volunteerism in this sector is equivalent to 1,030 full time jobs
  • Obviously, these employment figures do not include the spin-off jobs generated by the arts, such as increase patronage of restaurants, industry services such as carpentry when building new facilities, and the like.
  • The GDP contribution of the sector in Alberta is $221 million broken up as follows:
    • $112 million in direct contribution (spending money to produce events – for example, payments to artists and artistic & administrative personnel)
    • $42 million in indirect contribution (expenditure by the sector to suppliers of goods and services)
    • $67 million in induced contribution (employees and suppliers who receive money from the arts sector and spend it in the general economy)

Perhaps the best quote of the report, though, is this:

“despite its small economic footprint, the arts sector is important to economic development. In addition, Alberta’s rich arts ecosystem indicates that Alberta is about more than just work; the arts sector helps attract and retain the knowledge-based and skilled workers and their families that the province needs to grow and prosper in communities that show significant participation in the arts”

Well said.

Read the report for yourself on the Alberta Foundation for the Arts’ website.

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