Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

The arts mean business in Centre County

By George Trudeau and Erin Coe

We are fortunate to have many strong and vibrant arts organizations in Centre County, both community-based and Penn State-affiliated. They provide countless opportunities for our community and visitors from outside the region to engage with the arts, elevating the quality of life for all while enriching social and community involvement. But the arts are also an industry. National studies of the economic impact of the arts that included Centre County data demonstrate that both nationally and locally the arts are an economic driver—an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and spurs tourism.

In 2012 the Americans for the Arts released “Arts and Economic Prosperity 4,” a large-scale national study including Centre County that looked at the impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences. The data for our region demonstrated that the annual economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences in Centre County is significant because they:

  • Generate $22.5 million in direct economic activity—$10 million in spending by arts and cultural organizations and $12.5 million in event-related expenditures by their audiences;
  • Support 700 full-time equivalent jobs, positions that are rooted in Centre County and can’t be outsourced;
  • Produce $2.5 million in government revenue, created by arts organizations through employment and the purchase of goods and services;
  • Create $12.5 million in event-related spending by arts audiences, an average of $26.90 per person per event, excluding the cost of admission—dollars that land in the pockets of local businesses;
  • Attract people to Centre County and drive tourism; 37 percent of audiences came from outside Centre County and, on average, they spent three-and-a-half times what their local counterparts did on meals, transportation, and retail sales.

Americans for the Arts has recently released the results of its fifth national study on the impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences. The key findings showed that nationally arts organizations and their audiences:

  • Generate $166.3 billion of economic activity; $3.4 billion in Pennsylvania;
  • Support 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs, more than 100,000 in Pennsylvania;
  • Produce $27.5 billion in government revenue, $402 million of it in Pennsylvania;
  • Attract people to communities, generating tourism and arts-related spending. Two-thirds of nonlocal attendees indicated the primary reason for their visit was to attend an arts event.

Going hand-in-hand with the study findings is a 2017 Business Contributions to the Arts Survey that revealed 67 percent of U.S. companies support the arts because it improves the economy and quality of life. An Americans for the Arts 2016 survey showed that 82 percent of Americans believe that arts and culture are important to local businesses and the economy, and 87 percent believe arts and culture are important to quality of life.

The arts mean business in Centre County. These survey findings show that investing in the arts is good for economic development and quality of life, and aligns with the beliefs of a large majority of Americans. All who live and do business in Centre County, along with our government representatives, can be confident that by supporting the arts they are making a smart investment. In return for beautiful and uplifting arts experiences, we get jobs, economic activity, and government revenue. Everybody wins!

We encourage everyone in Centre County to consider what we can all do, or do more of, to support arts organizations in our area. Our actions can take many forms, from attending performances and exhibitions to donating time and money and encouraging our government representatives and others to engage and make similar investments in the arts. Supporting the arts is good for business, and for all of us it makes Centre County a wonderful place to live and work.

Find more information on the latest Arts and Economic Prosperity survey.

George Trudeau is director of the Center for the Performing Arts. Erin Coe is director of the Palmer Museum of Art.