Arts shown as big boost to economy

A recent study finds that Laguna Beach leads the nation in nonprofit arts organizations’ economic impact on a per capita basis.

“Arts & Economic Prosperity III,” conducted by Americans for the Arts, finds that Laguna’s per capita spending is 1 1/2 times that of the second place city, Miami.

The city, the Alliance for the Arts, and the Visitors and Conference Bureau held a press conference Wednesday to release the findings; the city’s participation in the study was sponsored by the groups.

“When I think of the arts, I think of how it feeds my soul,” Mayor Toni Iseman said. “But on this day, we learn the arts don’t just feed our souls; they feed our budget.”


The study was conducted in 156 communities and regions. Visitors and arts organizations were surveyed on their spending.

Nearly $55 million of economic activity was reported, $32 million of which was spent by arts audiences.

The remainder was spent by the nonprofits, which include the summer art festivals, several performing arts organizations and Community Art Project.

“I experienced this vital arts community myself when I visited Laguna Beach in March of this year,” said Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts.


“For a city with roughly 25,000 residents, the amount of arts activity contributing to the local economy is extraordinary and one of the highest per capita in the nation.”

With an average of $55.41 per person spent on hotels, restaurants and other related costs, Laguna’s arts audiences spent twice the national average.

The numbers are thought to be conservative, Arts Commissioner Nancy Beverage said, because they only took into account the first night of hotel expenditures of a visitor’s stay.

Although Laguna was near the bottom of the list in total annual economic activity, it came out the highest per capita.

“Our challenge is to protect what we’ve got and move forward from there,” Beverage said.

The study uses an economic analysis model developed by Nobel Prize-winning economists. Custom models were developed for each community.