Supporting the Arts Means Business

Over the past year, Virginia Beach arts and cultural organizations participated in the most comprehensive economic impact study of the non-profit arts ever conducted in the U.S.
ballet folklorico de mexico at the Sandler CenterNationally, the non-profit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity last year. That’s one of the findings in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) study, which included Virginia Beach and 340 other communities. Virginia Beach alone generated $87.7 million — $25.9 million in direct spending and $61.8 million in event-related spending by their audiences. This spending supported 2,875 jobs, generated $52.5 million in income to local residents and returned about $7 million to local and state governments in the form of tax revenues.

Thirty-three eligible nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Virginia Beach provided detailed operating budget information (FY2015) to AEP5 to analyze labor, local/non-local artists, operations, administration, programming, facilities, and capital expenditures/asset acquisition).

"This spending is far-reaching," said Virginia Beach Cultural Arts Director Emily Spruill Labows. Organizations pay employees, purchase supplies, contract for services and acquire assets within their community. Those dollars, in turn, generated $18.6 million in household income for local residents and $7 million in local and state government revenues. "This economic impact study sends a strong signal that when we support the arts, we not only enhance our quality of life, but we also invest in the city's economic well-being. A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive."

On average, patrons of the arts in Virginia Beach spent $31.10 per person on hotels, restaurants, parking, souvenirs, refreshments, or other similar costs—and non-local attendees spent, on average, 41 percent more per person than locals ($38.12 compared to $27.02).

“When a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards,” said Brad R. Van Dommelen, director of the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Arts and cultural experiences enhance the quality of life for residents, attract a higher-spending visitor and positions a community for future sustainability."

The study also revealed that a community's arts industry is an important element of economic development as well.  "Arts and cultural assets can attract a strong workforce, recruit and retain industry, and assist us in improving economic outcomes," said Warren Harris, director of Economic Development for the City.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study was conducted by Americans for the Arts and supported by The Ruth Lilly Fund of Americans for the Arts. For a full list of the communities that participated in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, visit

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