Oct 20, 2023 - Culture

How the NWA arts scene is boosting the local economy

Illustration of a paint tube with money coming out.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Northwest Arkansas' arts and culture scene generated $232.7 million in economic activity last year, a study by national nonprofit Americans for the Arts indicates.

The big picture: That impact didn't just come from people buying tickets to concerts or plays. People also tend to spend money on things like restaurants and parking when they go to an event, boosting the local economy, according to the study.

  • The average event attendee in NWA spent $31.63, not including the cost of admission.

State of play: The region as a whole is amping up the arts, Brittany Johnson, spokesperson at the Creative Arkansas Community and Exchange Hub (CACHE), told Axios. When people come into town for a Razorback game or to bike the trails, they're also checking out music venues' schedules to see who's playing, or stopping by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

  • About 12% of arts and culture event attendees in Benton and Washington counties traveled from outside those two counties. On average they spend $63.33 while in town, per the study.

Details: Arts and culture organizations spent $157.4 million, and their audiences spent $75.2 million, on events.

  • "That economic activity supported 3,434 jobs, provided $136.6 million in personal income to residents and generated $35.2 million in tax revenue to local, state and federal governments," according to the study.

Flashback: A past study from the nonprofit found that the arts generated about $131.2 million back in 2015, meaning the industry's economic impact has grown by 77% in seven years.

Of note: Arts organizations are still recovering from audience losses during the pandemic, Johnson said.

  • NWA's outdoor venues and arts events have likely helped people feel more comfortable attending events, she said.

Be smart: The study analyzed Benton and Washington counties, and included categories like museums, film, and libraries, as well as performing arts like music, dance and theater.


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