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Originally published June 6, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 6, 2007 at 12:31 PM

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Arts have big economic impact in Seattle, study says

The arts are big business in Seattle ...nerating $330 million in economic activity annually, according to a recent study of the city's...

Seattle Times music critic

The arts are big business in Seattle — generating $330 million in economic activity annually, according to a recent study of the city's nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

The study, part of a national survey of the arts, is the first to single out the city of Seattle. It also compares its arts activity with that of similarly sized cities around the country.

The Seattle survey is based on data collected from 69 Seattle nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, and 415 event attendees, during 2006. About 37 percent of the audience members polled came to Seattle arts events from outside King County.

Some key findings of the survey:

• The $330 million in economic activity includes $211 million in spending by arts organizations and almost $119 million in event-related spending by arts audiences.

• Seattle's arts create 7,992 full-time equivalent jobs, with $177.8 million in resident household income.

• The arts here also generate $12.3 million in local government tax revenue and $14.4 million in state government tax revenue (including taxes paid by both arts organizations and their audiences).

The national results of the Americans for the Arts "Arts & Economic Prosperity III" survey, released last month, show that the nonprofit arts industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity annually, resulting in $29.6 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation awarded a $75,000 grant to Americans for the Arts in 2006 to fund survey research in Seattle and six other Northwest communities: Boise, Idaho; Missoula, Mont.; Portland; Tacoma; and Anchorage and Homer, Alaska (all located in the five states where the Allen Foundation funds). Of those cities, not surprisingly, Portland posted the figures closest to Seattle: $318.3 million in economic activity.

Sue Coliton, senior director of the Allen Foundation, said that the foundation "wanted to see those [Northwest] cities in the study. We think the results will be useful in advocating for more public and private funding for the arts, and more favorable policies, as well as creating more cultural opportunities."

The survey indicates that Seattle is an arts-centric city. Said Coliton: "Although Seattle was third from the bottom in population among the 19 cities in its population group, it was fourth from the top in terms of economic impact."

Among the other cities in Seattle's group were San Francisco (at the top of the economic-impact list at more than $1 billion); Austin, Texas; Indianapolis; and Milwaukee. The survey covered 156 communities.


According to Michael Killoran, director of Seattle's Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Seattle's economic figures should be considered conservative estimates, because there was only a 30 percent response rate from local arts organizations.

"The study measures direct spending by organizations and patrons," Killoran said, such as restaurants, parking, hotels — but not the "ripple effects of the dollars."

Randy Cohen, vice president of research at the nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts, said his agency conducts surveys approximately every five years, "because that's their effective shelf life." The 2007 study is the largest ever done, he added; it is also the first to include Pacific Northwest communities.

The full text of the Seattle report is available at

Melinda Bargreen:

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