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Study touts $500M arts impact in Cuyahoga County last year

A parade float passes by people at Parade the Circle in Cleveland.
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
A parade float passes by people at Parade the Circle in Cleveland.

A study by Americans for the Arts finds that Cuyahoga County arts nonprofits and their patrons contributed $533 million to the economy in 2022.

The survey results were released Thursday, showing polling from 34 percent of the county’s arts and culture organizations. The study has been conducted six times since 1994, but this is the first time Cuyahoga County has been included among the 373 regions reviewed. Arts advocacy group Assembly for the Arts coordinated the effort locally. Assembly CEO Jeremy Johnson said it shows a sector that’s been resilient after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It's really important that we have data to back up our constant advocacy for arts and culture,” he said. “I think this gives us really the ammunition to go before our public officials, before our public, before our artists, before our arts organizations, to say, 'Let's keep on keeping on.’”

Arts entities in Cuyahoga spent nearly $390 million last year on things like supplies, services, promotion and payroll. That’s about double the national average. The study shows that audiences in Cuyahoga spent $37.33 on arts-related expenses per outing – just a dollar less than the national average.

“You had to get a babysitter, you had to pay for parking, you had to pay for food, you have to pay for your hotel," Johnson said. “A half-billion-dollar-plus is a good snapshot, especially in 2022. We’re now in 2023. These numbers, I'm sure, would have grown since then.”

Americans for the Arts changed its methodology slightly to measure the impact of BIPOC audiences and what they’re paying. Johnson said those numbers are encouraging.

“What this research showed very clearly is that people of color attend and pay at the same levels as the general public,” he said. “The money is just as green. I believe that the art is just as rich - and I know that to be true.”

Johnson said those numbers are important to him given Assembly’s primary goal.

“Our mission is to grow the pie of resources for the arts and culture sector and also to expand the equity, the diversity within the sector,” he said.

Americans for the Arts also worked with the Buckeye Hills Regional Council, covering southeast Ohio, and Dayton’s Culture Works. Both areas have lower population than Cuyahoga County, but those regions still showed millions in arts economic impact: about $241 million in Dayton and close to $25 million in southeast Ohio. Denver, Colorado - with a similar population to Cuyahoga County - showed a smaller impact of $392 million last year.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.