Spartanburg leaders often tout the county’s evolution as a creative hub.
A new study unveiled Thursday, Aug. 31, just might give credence to those claims, showing nonprofit arts and cultural activities have a more than $32 million annual economic impact on the county.
“The arts mean business,” said Jennifer Evins, president and CEO of the Chapman Cultural Center. “This is our benchmark. We’re going to measure this every year going forward.”
The study, Arts and Economic Prosperity 5, generated by the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Americans for the Arts, illuminates the impact that the arts industry has on the economy at the national and local levels.
Spartanburg was one of 341 communities across the nation chosen to receive customized analysis as part of the study. The accumulation of local data was coordinated by the Chapman Cultural Center, collected during the 2015 fiscal year, and tabulated in 2016.
Spartanburg-specific data showed the county’s economic impact was comprised of $21.4 million spending from nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and $10.7 million in event-related spending.
The report said the local nonprofit arts and cultural industry supports 1,130 full-time jobs, compared with the national average of 1,131.
Findings showed that the industry generates nearly $22.4 million in resident household income in Spartanburg, $1.11 million in revenue for local government, and almost $1.6 million in state government revenue per year.
The report’s findings were introduced to the media during a ceremony Thursday morning at the Chapman Cultural Center in downtown Spartanburg. An event for the community was to be held at the center Thursday evening.
“When we invest in the arts, we’re investing in a product that brings people to the community and then they spend money,” said Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy for Americans for the Arts. “The arts provide cultural and economic benefits for a community.”
Cohen added, “They’re not just nice, they’re necessary.”
Evins said Spartanburg’s participation in the study could provide insight that will help the county recruit more white-collar jobs and creative industries.
It could also help encourage local businesses and residents to increase their involvement in the arts, as well as driving local tourism.
The study showed that during 2015, 2,151 volunteers donated almost 101,000 hours to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Spartanburg.
Those organizations reported that they received nearly $211,000 worth of in-kind contributions from local companies, individuals, local and state arts agencies, and government agencies.
According to the study, arts and culture events attracted 682,459 attendees in 2015, including 578,725 visits from residents and 103,734 visits from nonresidents.
Average spending per person was $13.94 for residents, and $25.09 for nonresidents.
The study highlighted a survey administered to nonresident visitors, or individuals who live outside of the county, which revealed that nearly 57 percent said the main reason for their visit to Spartanburg was to attend an arts or cultural event.
The survey showed that more than 43 percent of respondents said they would have traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event.
“When you look at the drivers [of tourism], they are the cultural organizations,” Cohen said. “People are looking for authentic cultural experiences.”
Recent initiatives and other developments on the horizon could see Spartanburg’s economic impact from the arts increase during the next few years.
Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light, a public art project funded by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Lighten Up Spartanburg, the Spartanburg Art Walk, and Spartanburg Music Trail have continued to attract visitors.
The Chapman Cultural Center’s Culture Counts initiative helped the Spartanburg Downtown Cultural District launch in November 2016. The district hosts more than 1,000 event opportunities for the public, according to the Chapman Cultural Center.
Spartanburg’s $20 million, 10-story AC Hotel under construction at the southwest corner of West Main Street and Daniel Morgan Avenue will be a showplace for artwork from The Johnson Collection’s Black Mountain College portfolio.
In May, the S.C. Arts Commission, in partnership with the Greenville-based nonprofit CommunityWorks, launched the pilot of ArtsGrow SC in Spartanburg. Through ArtsGrow SC, qualifying artists or creative ventures will have access to a matched savings program, or Individual Development Accounts (IDA) for artists, as well as micro-loans, business venture loans, grants, personalized coaching, and workshops.
“The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what community you live in,” Cohen said. “Whether it’s a small rural one, or a large urban one. If the arts are happening there, the arts are big business and they’re good for the economy.”
To view the full study, visit: chapmanculturalcenter.org.