$31.2 million generated by Rutherford County arts, says study


"It would take five years of hosting the TSSAA tournaments to generate what our arts industry is doing this year."

For years, proponents of the arts have argued for support, citing the cultural impact of things such as music, fine arts and theater. But that impact, according to a recent study, is far more than cultural.

"The arts industry is one that gives back," said Jennifer Moody, assistant city manager for Murfreesboro, at a media conference Tuesday releasing the results of the study.

Moody helped coordinate the city's participation in the national Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) economic impact study, one of 25 communities in Tennessee to do so. The study revealed Rutherford County has seen more than $31.2 million generated annually by events ranging from music festivals to art crawls.

There were 36 non-profit arts organizations in Rutherford County that participated in the study, said Moody, and the diverse sizes of the groups didn't matter.

"They are generating revenue," she said. "It would take five years of hosting the TSSAA tournaments to generate what our arts industry is doing this year."

The study, said Moody, was "conservative and reliable," and looked at everything from how much money a theater group spent on paint for sets to how much gas a tourist bought while in Rutherford County to attend an event.

About a third of the income generated comes from the arts organizations themselves, $10.8 million, the study said. The remaining $20 million is generated by the audiences attending those events. The study estimates that the number of full time jobs the industry supports is 1,054, with an income of more than $18 million. This alone, said Moody, generates $1.3 million in local revenue and $1.9 million in state revenue. What it means to the average homeowner is a tax savings of more than $250 a year.

With Nashville just down the road, it was probably no surprise to those conducting the study that the entire state benefits financially from the arts industry, but they were surprised when they saw just how much, said Anne B. Pope, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission.

"Tennessee compares very well nationally,"she said.

In fact, the arts generates about $1.17 billion dollars a year for the state, supporting 38,482 full-time jobs and contributing $838 in local household income.

The study is done every five years, said Pope, but this was the first time Tennessee participated.

"Rutherford County was really a leader on the local level," she said.

One important factor of the study, Pope continued, was that it provides a benchmark for future studies as the state and local agencies monitor their financial impact on their communities.

"Rutherford County is privileged to be home to a vibrant arts community," said Rep. Dawn White. While acknowledging the importance of the economics of the arts, she also referred to that cultural impact. A former teacher, White talked about taking children on field trips to museums or plays and watching.

"Their eyes just lit up when they saw a play for the very first time."

"This study reveals that non-profit arts and cultural organizations substantially contribute to Rutherford County's tourism economic impact, while making our community a more desirable place to live, work and play," said Barbara Wolke, senior vice president, Rutherford County Convention & Visitors Bureau, in a media release.

"Whether visitors are attending events like the Uncle Dave Macon Days Music and Arts Festival, activities held at the Discovery Center, or other arts related venues, cash registers are ringing. Tourists are staying in our hotels, dining in our restaurants and shopping in local retail stores."

The Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study is the most comprehensive economic impact study of Rutherford County's nonprofit arts industry ever conducted, said Moody.

The study revealed that per local event, attendees spent $21.53 per person on meals and snacks, local transportation and lodging, souvenir and gifts. In addition, arts volunteerism in Rutherford County includes the donated energy of 2,239 volunteers, giving 125,562 hours of time, with an estimated value of approximately $2.9 million.

She also pointed out that the study is conservative, and did not include revenue generated by solo artists or for-profit members of the arts communities.

The study, funded by a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, was not only the first of its kind as far as complexity and size for Tennessee, it was the first and largest of its kind for the nation.

For more information and to see the study, visit the Tennessee Arts Commission website for the statewide announcement at http://tnartscommission.org/news/aep5-report-release/.

© 2017 The Murfreesboro Post

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