St. Paul, Minn. — Professor Ann Markusen of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs says artists are not getting enough recognition for their contribution to the economy.
"It used to be that people thought that artists were local-serving, and were supported by whoever is in the region patronizing their work -- and that's just less and less true all the time," says Markusen.
Increasingly, Markusen says, artists are selling their work outside the region. Playwrights get their money from theaters across the country, artists show at galleries in other states, and dance companies take their work on tour. As a result, the artists are drawing in money from elsewhere, and spending it locally.
Markusen says typical economic studies gauge the impact of the arts based on ticket sales, parking revenues and whether or not arts patrons went out for dinner as a part of their evening. Instead, Markusen's study looks at the number of artists employed in a community. She says Minnesotans have a lot to be proud of.
"One of the things about the Twin Cities that should be a sign of pride to us is that we're outstanding in all the groups of artists, whereas many of the other second-tier cities were concentrated in one or another," says Markusen. "So in performing artists, visual artists, authors, writers and musicians, we do quite a bit better than the national average -- more than 10 percent better than the national average."
Markusen says such artistic diversity is unusual. Most large cities specialize in one or two areas of the arts. Los Angeles draws performing artists, while New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. are known for their writers. Visual artists are more prominent in Orange County, San Diego and Seattle, while musicians dominate in Baltimore, Miami and San Diego.
She attributes the health of the Twin Cities arts community to the prevalence of organizations that exist to support artists and new work.
"Playwrights Center for writing and theater, the Composers Forum, the Textile Center," she lists a few. "We have a lot of organizations in the Twin Cities that are artistic occupation-specific, and they really provide places where artists can go work on their craft, learn new tricks, be exposed to each other's work."
Both locally and nationally, however, Markusen says such organizations need increased financial support. Typically, she says, local governments and other funding agencies get more excited about providing money for high-profile buildings than supporting individual artists. Markusen says there's a misconception that the bulk of the financial impact of the arts rests with large arts institutions.
"I'm not suggesting that we should defund any large arts organizations or building projects. But I do think that when we're thinking about the arts and the contribution to the economy, we should extend our sense of who participates and who contributes to the economy to artists themselves and their occupational groups," Markusen says, "so that when the arts are up there against sports stadiums and all kinds of other things that are on legislators' dockets, that we can really show how significant they are."
Markusen says she is troubled by one thing in her report. The top three arts cities -- Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco -- are surging ahead of the rest of the country. She says these high profile hubs of the media industry are drawing younger artists away from smaller communities.
Policymakers are asking Markusen to come up with actual dollar figures showing the financial value of artists to a community. She says this is an enormous challenge, but is looking for ways to calculate such information in future studies.