Seven years ago, our community arts organization, Connect2Culture, participated in a national study to measure the economic impact of arts and culture — the number of jobs created, how much state and local tax revenue they generated, the indirect benefits reaped by the service industry, or how they drove tourism.

The study results showed that local arts and culture generated $5.4 million in economic activity. At the state level, it contributed $1.03 billion. When the state data was presented to the Legislature, it led one lawmaker to comment that the direct spending amount generated by arts and culture represented more than is generated by the sports sector in Missouri.

Let that sink in.

C2C is again participating in the study, “The Arts and Economic Prosperity,” the sixth of its kind led by Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy group.

Joplin will be among 387 study regions representing small towns, counties, major cities and multicity areas in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Because the Missouri Arts Council is one of the national study partners, C2C had the option of participating in the study. It paid $3,000 to participate with the money going to Americans for the Arts for such costs as staff consultation and survey tabulation, said Emily Frankoski, C2C director.

The first such study was conducted in 1994, and they have generally been held every five years since then. This sixth edition was delayed by two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frankoski said.

The study is two-part. It collects data on audience attendance and event-related spending, and it measures how arts and culture nonprofits contribute to the economy. The latter gathers data on the number of jobs these organizations support, the types of funding they receive, their annual budgets and related information.

C2C began conducting the audience surveys this month, distributing them at such recent events as First Thursday Art Walk, a Coda House concert, and Spiva Center for the Arts’ Art on Tap.

The surveys will be conducted at all types of arts events, both visual and performing arts, and at events such as Emancipation Days, an annual celebration of our local Black community.

The latter is being included because the national study is seeking to measure not only how the arts and culture industry has grown, but also how organizations serving Black people, Indigenous people or people of color contribute to arts and culture. Such inclusion is part of this year’s study because that segment of the population has been underrepresented in past Arts and Economic Prosperity studies, Frankoski said.

Audience surveys will seek demographic information on age, education, income, race or disability of event attendees, and such information as how far they travel to attend local arts and cultural events and how much they’ll have in event-related spending for child care or at hotels, eating and drinking establishments, retail stores or on local transportation, such as parking fees or Uber or taxi service.

While the audience surveys are being conducted, C2C will be reviewing more than 60 organizations to determine their participation in the study. In the last survey, some organizations, such as the small fine arts and cultural groups at Missouri Southern State University, slipped through the cracks in participation. This time, greater attention will be given to reaching all local groups, including new ones, such as the Langston Hughes Cultural Society or the Rotary Clubs that have created the sculpture garden at Mercy Park.

Frankoski said data can be expected to differ considerably from the last study because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on arts nonprofits, plus there will be a significant increase in arts-related events with the opening of the Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex. The complex is now under construction and scheduled to open this fall.

The study will run until next April, allowing time to measure the impact of Cornell Complex in direct and indirect event spending.

Also effecting spending data will be the impact of our rocketing inflation, said Frankoski.

“You can’t control those variables,” she said, “but we don’t want to because we’re measuring the particular (moment in) time.”

The study results will be shared with the Joplin City Council and state legislators to educate them on the impact of the arts and culture industry and to gather support for funding of that sector. They will be used to lobby for state budget appropriations, as well as allocations from the Missouri Athlete and Entertainers Tax. Under the law that established that tax fund, the arts are to receive 60% of the revenue collected, but that hasn’t always been the case, said Frankoski.

The local study conducted in 2015 showed that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a significant industry in Joplin. At that time, the spending it generated — $1.8 million by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $3.6 million in event-related spending — supported more than 190 full time jobs, generated $3.4 million in household income for local residents, and brought in $452,000 in local and state tax revenue.

“We already know the arts mean business in Joplin,” said Frankoski. “This economic impact study sends a strong message that when we support the arts, we not only enhance our quality of life, but we also invest in the city of Joplin’s economic well-being. We are eager to see where we are now compared to 2015.”

Marta is an arts columnist for The Joplin Globe. 

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Marta is an arts columnist for The Joplin Globe.