Americans for the Arts Releases Arts & Economic Prosperity 5


MASSCreative has long admired and supported the work of our big-sister org in Washington, the national arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts. We’ve worked with them on many projects, including their State Policy Pilot Program (SP3), and attend the AFTA Convention each year.

This past weekend, on Saturday, June 17, Americans for the Arts released Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5), their fifth national study of the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry. 

With the help of project economists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the study collected expenditure and attendance data from 14,439 arts and cultural organizations and 212,691 of their attendees to measure total industry spending.

The most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, AEP5 documents the economic contributions of the arts in 341 diverse communities and regions across the country, and represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

So what did all this data collection yield? We here at MASSCreative think the numbers speak for themselves:

Nationally, in 2015, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences: 


  • Generated $166.3 billion in economic activity
  • Supported 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs
  • Generated $27.5 billion in government revenue

Typical arts attendees:

  • Spent $31.47 per person, per event beyond the cost of admission
  • 69% of nonlocal attendees indicated their primary reason for visiting was “specifically to attend this arts or cultural event.”




These figures stand as further proof of what MASSCreative has known and advocated for since its inception: that the arts are an integral part of our economy, and vital in the creation of vibrant, healthy and equitable communities.

Writing for their ArtsBlog, AFTA’s Vice President of Research and Policy, Randy I. Cohen states that AEP5, “changes the conversation about the arts from that of a ‘charity’ to one about an ‘industry,’” echoing one of MASSCreative’s tried and true refrains: the arts aren’t just nice, they’re necessary.

Cohen goes on to underscore the value of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, calling them “good business citizens.”

They employ people locally, purchase goods and services in the community, are members of the Chamber of Commerce, and are involved in the marketing and promotion of their regions.

On the benefit of arts audiences’ spending, Cohen had this to say:

Like all industries, spending by arts organizations has a measurable economic impact. Unlike most industries, however, the arts generate a bounty of event-related spending for local businesses—dollars that land in the pockets of local establishments such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and even the local babysitters. 

Job support and government revenue are also key, with arts organizations employing “builders, web designers, electricians, accountants, printers, and other workers spanning many industries, in addition to artists, curators, musicians, and other arts professionals” and generating massive revenue each year, with only $5 billion in collective outlay. As Cohen puts it:

Small Investment. Big return.

Closer to home, AEP5 found that in Fiscal Year 2015, The State of Massachusetts:

  • Supported 73,288 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs 
  • Paid $1,435,631,000 in household income to residents
  • Generated $62,997,000 in revenue to Local Government 
  • Generated $96,187,000 in revenue to State Government

On the municipal level, the breakdown of Total Industry Expenditures for some of our local cities was:

Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts says:

By every measure, the results of Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 prove that the arts are an industry—a generator of government revenue, a cornerstone of tourism, and an employment powerhouse both locally and across the nation.

And we couldn’t agree more. In a climate where the NEA and NEH are both threatened by the Trump administration, it is more imperative than ever that we show legislators on every level of government that we don’t just support the arts, we need them

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