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Commentary: The arts are an economic force in the region


Someone once said, "The arts nourish the soul," and I believe this strongly. Most would agree that the arts are important to a vibrant and creative community, but they still see artists and the arts as fluff or icing on the cake. The arts, actually, are a force.

The arts can promote social change for the good, allow one to express and react to their world and can also make a strong economic impact.

The arts industry is often marginalized related to its economic contributions. In total, the arts attracted more people and more money than St. Louis professional sports teams combined according to a study made by RAC, the Regional Arts Commission of our city.

Looking at another study from a few years ago done by RAC, the St. Louis Business Journal reports that the arts mean business. The study conducted by RAC in partnership with Americans for the Arts revealed that the arts have an economic impact in St. Louis of 582 million dollars and account for more than 10,000 jobs. Studies such as this have been made in cities all over the country and have had similar results.

Arts boards always search for corporate monetary help and many corporations both local and national have been quite generous. But the arts themselves are a business which impacts our city.

Think about audiences. One might go to dinner and a show whether it is a play, a dance concert, a poetry reading, a symphony concert, etc. Attendance at these types of events generates income for local businesses--restaurants, parking garages, hotels, retail stores and more. According to yet another study, an average arts attendee spends $24.60 per event in addition to the cost of admission. On the national level, these audiences provided $74.l billion of valuable revenue for local merchants and their communities.

Of course the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the entire arts industry. The National Endowment for the Arts recently published new facts and figures showing the devastation that has taken place in the arts. Breaking it down, in 2019, the unemployment rate among musicians was 1.1 percent representing 3,000 professionals. In the third quarter of 2020, the rate rose to 27.1 percent and 56,000 professionals. With actors in 2019, the unemployment rate was 24.7 percent representing 11,000 professionals. In the third quarter of 2020, the rate rose to 52.3 percent and 28,000 professionals. And dancers and choreographers in 2019 had an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent or 3,000 professionals. In the third quarter of 2020 the rate rose to 54.6 percent and 8,000 professionals.

The NEA has put together numerous programs to help arts and artists get back on their feet and finally things are beginning to improve.

Locally, Ken Kranzberg and I are proud to be a part of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. Under the direction of executive director Chris Hansen, the foundation has a unique vision of providing infrastructure and training for artists and arts organizations so they can operate in a professional manner and operate in state of the art facilities.

The arts are one of St. Louis's greatest assets.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for more than forty years on numerous arts related boards.