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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Region’s arts groups generate over 2,500 jobs

    Randy Cohen talks on Monday, April 1, 2024, to a group of arts administrators and enthusiasts at the Ernst Common Room at Connecticut College about a new survey showing the economic impact of the arts in southeastern Connecticut. (Photo by Lee Howard/The Day)
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    Deb Mathiasen, assistant director of the Cultural Coalition, speaks on Monday, April 1, 2024, to a group of arts administrators and enthusiasts at the Ernst Common Room at Connecticut College. (Photo by Lee Howard/The Day)
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    New London -- Nonprofit arts organizations support 2,556 jobs and account for $183.2 million in spending throughout southeastern Connecticut, according to a new survey prepared by Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization that is backed mostly by private funding.

    Randy Cohen, vice president of research for the Washington, D.C.-based organization, told a group of about 40 arts enthusiasts brought together by the Cultural Coalition Monday at Connecticut College’s Ernst Common Room that about 80 of the more than 200 local arts nonprofits responded to the survey. He added that the numbers generated were not estimates; they were real numbers based only on those who responded to the survey, which picked up data from most of the major arts players in the area.

    “These are necessarily local jobs,” Cohen said in his 45-minute presentation. “This is not an industry that can be outsourced.”

    This is the second survey of local nonprofit arts organizations to quantify their impact, the first having been done in 2017. Deb Mathiasen, assistant director of the Cultural Coalition, said after the presentation that she was pleased with the results based on 2022 surveys, which showed the impact of the arts had not changed much in five years despite the pandemic.

    “We knew people were coming back, but this quantifies it, for sure,” Mathiasen said.

    In addition to direct spending, Cohen pointed to the spinoff effects of arts spending, including boosts to restaurants and hotels as well as areas such as shopping and clothing purchases. In all, local arts events generated an additional $32.33 in spending per person outside of the cost of admission.

    Surprisingly, according to audience surveys, 37 percent of those attending local nonprofit arts events were from outside New London County. And these attendees averaged $48.12 per person in spending, more than double the $23.01 of those who attended events closer to home.

    Cohen said his impression of the local numbers compared to other locations around the nation is that southeastern Connecticut is above the median in generating arts spending compared to other, similarly sized communities. He added that according to the local survey respondents, attendance at local nonprofit arts events amounted to about 3.1 million people.

    “We’re putting feet on the street,” Cohen said. “If you're a local business, you love the arts because it's bringing people to your place of work.”

    He added that while only 14% of people from out of town required lodging, they spent an average of about $193 when they did stay overnight. He said that arts volunteerism, which wasn’t included in the economic figures, was a lesser-known story, with nearly 4,700 volunteers contributing $6.1 million worth of work to help keep nonprofits thriving.

    Nationally, he said figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show the arts contributing $1.1 trillion to the economy, or about 4.4%. In Connecticut, the arts account for about 4% of the economy, or $12.8 billion, he said.

    “The arts are actually business and commerce,” Cohen said. “When there’s a growth in arts jobs, there’s growth in all employment.”

    l.howard@theday.com

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