The arts bring money, pride to Laguna

Art does more than enhance the city's reputation — it pays off.

A June 28 report by Americans for the Arts concluded that Laguna Beach nonprofit arts and culture activities pumped more than $49 million into the local economy in 2010, provided more than 1,350 jobs in town and generated $4.6 million in local and state revenue.

"It is a wise move for the city to support the arts," said Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda. "People who are drawn to the city by our art and cultural events park in our lots, eat in our excellent restaurants, stay in our hotels and shop in our stores and galleries, as well as buy tickets to events."

The economic benefit to the city is not news. A similar report was issued five years ago and has been cited often by the city's arts community.

"But the benefit is not just economic," said Kollenda, who is a performer as well as a commission member who advises the city on art-related projects and expenditures. "I think the arts engender great pride in our residents. I feel blessed to live here. We are a family and the arts foster that."

The Arts Commission partnered with Americans for the Arts throughout 2011 on the national survey of the economic impact of nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences to Laguna Beach. The city funded the report and the Visitors and Conference Bureau funded the presentation of the report's findings.

Laguna was one of 182 regions, with populations ranging from 1,600 to 4 million, that participated in the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study with findings customized for the city. Data was collected from 838 people who attended events in Laguna in 2011.

The study used four economic measures to calculate the impact on the city: full-time equivalent jobs, household income, revenue to local and state governments, which included local and state taxes on income, property, sales, and lodging, as well as funds from license fees, utility fees, filing fees, and other similar sources.

"Understanding and acknowledging the incredible economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture, we must always remember their fundamental value," Americans for the Arts President and Chief Executive Officer Robert L. Lynch said in the report. "They foster beauty, creativity, originality, and vitality."

Nonetheless, the thrust of the report is the economic impact — and it is immense.

The report concludes that the arts mean business.

Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are a major industry in Laguna that is reflected in revenue from bed and sales taxes and parking fees, and how many tourists the events draw.

Tourists reportedly spent an average total of $50.36 per event compared to $30.50 spent by locals, excluding the cost of tickets. Calculations included meals, snacks, overnight lodging and ground transportation.

Report researchers estimate that 23.6% of the almost 610,000 folks who attended Laguna Beach cultural events in 2010 were non-residents who spent an estimated total of $7.3 million directly related to the events.

Almost 70% of all non-resident respondents to the survey said the primary reason for their trip was "specifically to attend this arts/cultural event."

And 64% of them said they would go elsewhere if the event wasn't happening and more than half of local residents said they too would go out of town, taking their money with them.

Audiences aren't the only spenders.

Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are active contributors to the economy. They employ performers, choreographers, musicians, curators, event planners and financial staff; buy materials for the production of art and events; and rent venues for events that they advertise.

Spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations totaled $27.7 million in Laguna Beach during fiscal year 2010, according to the report.

Arts and culture volunteers also contribute to the arts and culture industry. The report states that 2,080 volunteers donated a total of 93,184 hours to the city's 17 participating nonprofit arts and culture organizations, an estimated aggregate value of $1.9 million based on valuing the average volunteer hour at $21.36.

"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 improve the city's economic well-being," said City Manager John Pietig.

The full study is available at

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