A new report shows that local nonprofit arts organizations had an economic impact of $29 million and 712 full-time jobs in 2022, plus a total of 13,133 volunteers providing 117,498 hours of donated time.

Quad City Arts led the local study — which in itself vastly undercounts the true QC economic impact of the arts and culture sector, executive director Kevin Maynard said Thursday. First, the Americans for the Arts national study focused on nonprofits, not including popular for-profit venues like Circa ’21, the Adler Theatre/RiverCenter and Vibrant Arena at The MARK.

Quad City Arts partnered with Americans for the Arts as part of the new national economic impact study.

Responses from 373 communities nationwide averaged 43.9%, but the response rate was just 28.5% in the Quad Cities — or 51 of the 179 total eligible nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Rock Island and Scott counties.

“It does leave out a lot of arts and culture things, which is why when I always talk about this – this is a great snapshot of why you should support local nonprofits,” Maynard said Thursday morning. “We are employing a lot of individuals and are bringing a lot of economic development.

“However, arts and culture throughout the U.S. actually has an economic impact of over $1 trillion and it supports five million people for employment, because that encompasses the for-profit sector,” he said.

The survey also just focused on Scott and Rock Island counties – not the six-county region served by Quad City Arts, leaving out areas like Geneseo, Muscatine and Clinton.

“One of the cool things this study does, it’s not just what the organizations are spending – because the reality is, most arts and culture organizations are bringing people in,” Maynard said, noting when patrons attend an event, they typically are spending money on gas, food and beverages.

“What are the things that you purchased to go there that night?” he said, noting non-local attendees typically spend about twice as much as residents, including lodging costs.

The last similar nationwide survey was done in 2017. They always just focus on nonprofits, partly because it would be too complex to include for-profits, he said. Reporting requirements (for grants and the like) are more stringent for nonprofit groups, so data is more easily accessible.

“The numbers are really good to have. I like to focus on, I can talk about the impact of the arts all day long – all the things the arts do for a community, for your mind,” Maynard said. “These numbers help us understand what the economic impact is.”

This is valuable information that arts organizations can show potential funders and supporters, to bolster the financial case for the arts.

Quad Cities Chalk Art Fest was held by Quad City Arts this past June 24-25 in Schwiebert Park, Rock Island.

“This honestly is a small number of nonprofits, focusing just on Scott and Rock Island County,” he said, noting it also doesn’t reflect the impact of individual visual and performing artists, and several small groups didn’t respond to the survey.

“That still is $30 million and arguably, that’s going to grow since we’re coming out of a pandemic,” Maynard said. “This just shows that the arts have more of a purpose – sometimes people view it as a frivolous thing. It drives the economy and tourism.

“People come into a community – when they’re not local, they’re spending twice as much,” he said. “And that’s a big deal.”

“The AEP6 report underscores what businesses across the nation have witnessed – that investments in arts and culture not only enhance the quality of life, but also stimulate economic development,” said Paul Washington, executive director of the Environmental, Social and Governance Center, The Conference Board. “By supporting the arts, companies attract and retain talent and create an environment where creativity, business, and communities thrive.”

Also noted in the study is the fact that according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the nation’s arts and entertainment sector (nonprofit and commercial) is a $1.02 trillion industry that supports 4.9 million jobs and is 4.4 percent of the nation’s economy – larger than sectors such as construction, transportation, and agriculture.

National numbers

Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6) is an economic and social impact study of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry. By every measure, the results are impressive. Nationally, the sector generated $151.7 billion of economic activity in 2022—$73.3 billion in spending by arts and culture organizations and an additional $78.4 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences.

It supported 2.6 million jobs, provided $101 billion in personal income to residents, and generated $29.1 billion in tax revenue to local, state, and federal governments. Investment in the nonprofit arts and culture industry builds the communities where people want to live and work. It is where entrepreneurs and creative economy businesses are launched and where nighttime economies flourish, the report says.

“When we prioritize diverse cultural expressions and traditions, it nurtures social connections, promotes community pride and identity, and boosts tourism by providing the authentic experiences that draw visitors to the community,” the report says. “If visitors have a positive experience, it may become a place to work—and ultimately one in which to live. Creating livable communities is economic development.”

In 2017, the previous study, AEP5, documented that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity (spending by organizations plus the event-related spending by their audiences) which supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in government revenue. The AEP series demonstrates that an investment in the arts provides both cultural and economic benefits.

The new study focused on QC nonprofit arts groups, not including for-profit venues like Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Rock Island.
  • Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are businesses. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from within the community, are members of their Chambers of Commerce, and attract tourists to their regions.
  • The arts drive commerce to local businesses. The arts, unlike most industries, leverage significant amounts of event-related spending by their audiences. In 2017, arts attendees spent $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and lodging—vital income for local businesses.
  • Arts travelers are ideal tourists. They stay longer and spend more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. One-third of attendees travel from outside the county in which the activity takes place and spend an average of $48 per person. (69% say they traveled specifically to attend the activity.)
  • Small investmentsBig returns. In 2017, the combined $5 billion in direct arts funding by local, state, and federal governments yielded $27.5 billion in government revenue.
  • The local and statewide research partners collected a total of 224,677 valid audience surveys.
    • 68% were collected using traditional paper surveys, and 32% were collected electronically (e.g. using QR codes).
    • 17% were collected at events that were presented, produced, and/or hosted by an organization that primarily serves a community of color.
    • The traditional paper survey was translated into 24 languages; the electronic versions were available in both English and Spanish.
  • In collaboration with the local and statewide research partners, they collected budget and attendance information from 16,510 eligible nonprofit arts and culture organizations.
    • Organizations that completed the full version of the survey provided information about revenues, expenditures, in-person attendance, virtual attendance, staff size, and volunteers. The survey also captured information about community and social impact, organizational leadership, mission/primary purpose, and the community served.
    • An abbreviated version of the survey (deployed near the end of the data collection process) collected information about expenditures and in-person attendance only.

Local numbers

Highlights of the QC responses include:

  • Arts organizations employed 541 people and related businesses employed 171.
  • Organizations spent $16.25 million and audiences spent $12.8 million.
  • Total attendance at in-person events was 470,224, nearly 20 percent from non-local visitors.
  • Total event-related spending (not including tickets) was $12,776,901, with the average local attendee spending $23.36 per person, per event, and $42.71 per non-local person.

Quad City Arts had 808 responses to audience surveys, including about 80 percent from residents and the rest from non-residents.

A scene from “title of show” at Moline’s Black Box Theatre.

During 2022, the responding arts organizations had a total of 13,133 volunteers donate a total of 117,498 hours to the 51 participating groups. This represents an aggregate value of $3.3 million.

Maynard was not sure if the total volunteers include performers, such as for community theaters. Quad City Arts alone depends on nearly 3,000 volunteers to put on the major fundraiser Festival of Trees each November.

Nationally, arts groups are coping with reduced post-pandemic audiences, he said, resulting in lower employment.

Ballet Quad Cities at Davenport’s Outing Club.

“Nationally, audiences are only back at 80 percent,” Maynard said.

Visit Quad Cities is a huge backer of local arts and understands the economic and tourism impact on the community, Maynard said. “This just gives them more data,” he said. “This is more ammo for them to say, the more we drive more visitors for arts events, the more money comes to the community.”

To see the complete QC report, click below.