Virginia Beach’s Nonprofit Arts and Culture Industry Generates $87.7 Million in Economic Activity and Supports 2,875 Jobs Annually, According to Americans for the Arts

Arts Industry Returns $7 Million in Revenue to Local and State Government

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

​The City of Virginia Beach's nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $87.7 million in annual economic activity—supporting 2,875 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $7 million in local and state government revenues, according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) national economic impact study. The most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted in the United States, AEP5 was conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.

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

Results show that nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Virginia Beach spent $25.9 million during fiscal year 2015.

"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."

The $87.7 million total includes $61.8 million in event-related spending by arts audiences, excluding the cost of admission. The $61.8 million in event-related spending by arts audiences reflects an average of $31.10 per person in spending for hotels, restaurants, parking, souvenirs, refreshments, or other similar costs—with non-local attendees spending an average of 41 percent more per person than local attendees ($38.12 compared to $27.02).

"The arts are stronger than ever in Virginia Beach, and now we have the numbers to prove it," said Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. "Arts and culture mean big business here."

When a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards, according to Brad R. Van Dommelen, director of the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"A community serves itself well by investing in arts and culture," Van Dommelen said. "Arts and cultural experiences enhance the quality of life for residents, attract a higher-spending visitor and positions a community for future sustainability."

Warren D. Harris, Director of Economic Development for the City of Virginia Beach, knows our community's arts industry are important elements of economic development.  "Arts and cultural assets can attract a strong workforce, recruit and retain industry, and assist us in improving economic outcomes," Harris said.

Nationwide, the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 reveals that the nationwide nonprofit arts industry produces $166.3 billion in economic activity every year, resulting in $27.5 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues. It also supports 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs and generates $96 billion in household income. 

"This study demonstrates that the arts are an economic and employment powerhouse both locally and across the nation," said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. "A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive and helps local communities become stronger and healthier places to live. Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business."

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. Americans for the Arts' local, regional, and statewide project partners contributed both time and financial support to the study. Financial information from organizations was collected in partnership with DataArts™, using a new online survey interface. For a full list of the communities that participated in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, visit

ABOUT THE CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH'S OFFICE OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS:  The role of the Office of Cultural Affairs is to develop the vision and direction of the cultural arts in Virginia Beach, assist and direct the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission, coordinate the city's Public Art Program, provide contract management for the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, serve as the liaison with Virginia MOCA and the ViBe Creative District, and serve as a resource to local arts and humanities organizations.