Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Fine Arts Fund makes case for more support

Study says arts worth $169M to local economy

By Cliff Peale cpeale@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The 17 arts organizations that are part of the Fine Arts Fund attracted 1.75 million visitors and added $169 million into the Tristate economy last year. Arts backers are using a new study to be released Thursday — the first from the Fine Arts Fund in 12 years — to make their case for more funding from local governments and corporations.

        They hope to build awareness of the arts community's role in luring local jobs and businesses, and bolstering the quality of life.

  Economic impact of the 17 fine arts fund institutions:
  • The organizations have about 950 employees, equivalent to one of the 50 largest corporations in Greater Cincinnati.
  • They generate $4 million a year in income, property and sales taxes for Hamilton County, the city of Cincinnati and other local jurisdictions.
  • Since 1990, attendance at the 17 organizations has increased 38 percent, and total economic impact has increased 42 percent.
  • The Fine Arts Fund organizations served half a million children through educational programs last year.
  Source: The Economics Center for Education and Research, University of Cincinnati.
        “We think we're the best news in town,” said Nancy Heffner Donovan, chairwoman of the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts, the group that operates the annual fund drive.

        There has never been a large collaborative arts marketing effort here, and many museums, theaters and performing arts groups complain of scant public support for their buildings and operations.

        The new study is a signal to supporters that local arts and cultural institutions are more than idle entertainment for wealthy patrons.

        When added to admis sions at the Aronoff Center for the Arts and the Cincinnati Museum Center, which are not part of the annual Fine Arts Fund, attendance totaled 3.65 million last year. That's more than either the Cincinnati Reds or Paramount's Kings Island alone, which are the top two attractions in the region.

        Arts backers have been making their case for several years. The pitch will continue Thursday, when the Institute celebrates its 75th anniversary.

        Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken and Procter & Gamble Co. chief executive A.G. Lafley, campaign chairman of next year's Fine Arts Fund, are scheduled to speak.

        But the bigger pitch will start in mid-2003, when the group will start the Festival of the New to mark the openings of several arts facilities: the expanded Taft Museum, the new Cincinnati Wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum and the new Contemporary Arts Center.

        In 2004, that celebration will continue with the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on the Cincinnati riverfront, under the title Festival of Freedom.

        Those capital projects underscore the need for facilities renovation and expansion costs for many of the region's arts groups.

        For example, the Museum Center spends $2.5 million a year to maintain the aging Union Terminal building in Queensgate, with virtually no public dollars to offset those costs.

        Ms. Donovan, owner of Ames Travel Service, said the arts community is “at a precipice.”

        “There has been a tremendous investment in this community in the arts,” she said. “We have got to drive the foundation for continued investment.”

        Jim Tarbell, chairman of Cincinnati City Council's Arts and Culture Committee, acknowledged that the city was not marketing its arts organizations as effectively as it should.

        The Fine Arts Fund, which raised about $9.3 million this spring, is one of the biggest private fund-raisers for the arts in the country. But there is no question that money is badly needed for a collaborative arts marketing campaign, Mr. Tarbell said.

        “It's the single most important category in the marketing of the city,” he said. “The regional effort is a work in progress. We need to start local, then expand it.”

        Neighboring regions already have put public funds behind arts marketing campaigns. In Indianapolis, for example, work has started on a $10 million arts marketing program.

        Out-of-town visitors are particularly important in generating economic impact, said Jeff Rexhausen, author of the impact study from the Economics Center for Education and Research at the University of Cincinnati. The institute paid for the study.

        Overall, 9 percent of visitors at the Fine Arts Fund institutions are from outside Greater Cincinnati, the study showed. At the Cincinnati Museum Center, about 30 percent are from other regions, officials there said.

        Mr. Rexhausen said the business impact from the arts is significant, beyond the raw numbers.

        “As we are moving toward a technology-based economy, one of the things those industries have in common is a core of well-educated, talented, creative people,” he said. “Things like the arts are particularly important for those people.”


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