Nonprofit arts and cultural groups contributed more than $150 million in 2015 to the Pikes Peak region's economy and support more than 5,000 full-time jobs, according to a study released Saturday.

The Arts and Economic Prosperity study, completed every five years by Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts in 341 regions and states, found that the 87 participating arts and cultural organizations spent $51.2 million in 2015 and employed 1,749 people on a full-time equivalent basis. Events by those organizations in 2015 attracted audiences totaling 3 million people who spent another $102.1 million, not counting the cost of admission, and generated another 3.321 jobs, boosting the total contribution to the local economy to $153.3 million and 5,070 jobs.

"We are trending in a great direction," said Andy Vick, executive director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. The office distributed surveys to about 400 local arts organizations, including theater and dance companies, museums, festivals, arts education groups and 867 audience members.

"I thought we would hit $100 million in economic impact, but was surprised we hit $150 million," Vick said. "This represents the success of the artists, arts organizations and audiences that are involved in the creative process, support arts organizations and volunteer."

A similar study completed in 2012 found 51 arts and cultural organizations spent $37.5 million in 2010 and their audiences spent another $34.5 million for an overall economic impact of $72 million that supported 2,168 full-time jobs, meaning the overall impact and employment more than doubled in five years. Americans for the Arts said direct comparisons between the two studies are difficult because fewer organizations participated five years ago and economists built a new model for this year's study, using data on employment, incomes and government revenue from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"Although it can be tricky to make direct comparisons between this current study and the last study five years ago, the new data clearly demonstrate that our arts and cultural sector is thriving, growing, and having a meaningful impact on the economic vitality of our community here in Colorado Springs and throughout the Pikes Peak region," Vick said.

This year's study also found that 82.6 percent of attendees at local arts and cultural events came from the Colorado Springs area and that half of those traveling from outside the area came here specifically for the event they attended. Those attending from the Springs area spent an average of $28.73, excluding the cost of admission, on meals and refreshments, souvenirs and gifts, transportation, and other expenses, while those outside the area spent an average of $64.23. That spending generated $12.3 million in state and local tax revenue, according to the study.

The arts and cultural organizations also benefited in 2015 from nearly 300,000 hours from 4,555 volunteers and received in-kind donations such as materials, facilities and services valued at $4.04 million from corporations, individuals, nonprofits and government agencies, according to the study.

Nationwide, the study found that more than 14,000 arts and cultural organizations in the 341 regions and states spent $63.8 billion in 2015 and audiences spent another $102.5 billion, together supporting 4.6 million jobs and generating $27.5 billion in revenue for government agencies. The average arts audience member spent $31.47 and more than a third traveled from outside the area to the event. The study, which does not include for-profit arts businesses such as galleries and professional theater companies, was also completed in Boulder, Crested Butte, Durango and Grand Junction.

"When you invest in the arts, it is not just a frill that contributes to the quality of life but an industry that provides both cultural and economic benefits. A vibrant arts community generates economic activity for local businesses," said Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy for Americans for the Arts, who will be in Colorado Springs July 12 to discuss the study with the public and local business and government leaders. "Nationally, arts is a growth industry that responds to the economy - when the economy is good, the arts outperform a lot of other industries."


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