Once every five years, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council partners with Americans for the Arts to conduct Arts & Economic Prosperity, an economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the Lehigh Valley. This research enables us to detect market changes, recognize trends and identify ways to safeguard this vital economic sector. In 2016, ninety-eight nonprofit cultural organizations in the Lehigh Valley submitted data for their fiscal year ending 2015.
After two decades of double-digit growth and the unbridled expansion of arts and cultural venues across our region, the results from the 2016 study reveal some troubling trends: that the annual economic activity generated by Lehigh Valley’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences declined about 11 percent, from $208 million five years ago to $186.4 million. The fact that attendance to regional events fell by 1.4 million persons is even more concerning.
However, size is just one measurement of impact. In addition to providing economic vitality, cultural nonprofits cultivate a level of community engagement that is invaluable to the region’s health and welfare. Among the many findings of the 2016 study, 6,952 volunteers donated 323,354 hours in 2015 to the 98 nonprofit organizations. This is tangible evidence of how the arts are integral to the lives of so many.
|Date of Report||2003||2007||2012||2017|
|ATTENDANCE: RESIDENTS / NONRESIDENTS||2.25M / 1.2M||2.6M / 1.1M||3.35M / 1.68M||2.5M / 1.14M|
|STUDY||Arts & Economic Prosperity II||Arts & Economic Prosperity III||Arts & Economic Prosperity IV||Arts & Economic Prosperity V|
|# OF PARTICIPANTS||76||88||91||98|
|LOCAL GOV’T REVENUE||$2.7M||$6.8M||$8.2M||$7.1M|
|STATE GOV’T REVENUE||$7.6M||$11.1M||$13.1M||$11.7M|
Source: Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Study, Americans for the Arts, 2017
Whose Business is the Arts?
On Friday, September 8, 2017, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council and the Lehigh Valley Partnership cosponsored an important public forum on the arts, the economy and our community. Whose Business is the Arts? brought together leaders from business, the arts, charitable foundations and local governments to assess the state of the nonprofit arts and culture from a Lehigh Valley-wide perspective.
It is critically important to remember that, first and foremost, the nonprofit arts and culture industry still remains a big business in the Lehigh Valley.
The speakers brought a wealth of experience engaging with cultural nonprofits and corporate leadership and highlighted successful corporate and arts partnerships. Their bios and PowerPoint presentations are available to view:
According to U.S. Census data estimates from 2012, the number of non-institutionalized people with disabilities living in the Lehigh Valley is 81,000, or 12.7%, which represents a significant number of potential new audiences for the cultural community.
Since 2013, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council has been collaborating with the Lehigh Valley Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community to present Arts & Access, a yearlong celebration commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act through the lens of the arts.
In preparation for the celebration, the Arts Council and the Partnership conducted an audit of current accessibility practices in the region in 2014. The results showed a significant need to provide training to cultural organizations and build more awareness of the challenges and barriers that exist for people with disabilities to participate in cultural events.
The surveys indicate that less than 13% of the cultural groups offer open captioning, sign language interpreters, audio description, and Braille printed materials. Only 16.7% offer large print brochures; and 29% offer assistive listening devices.
Arts & Access evolved from the work in the field and the relationships that both the Arts Council and the Partnership have nurtured to create a more inclusive region. The existing infrastructure, the power of the arts to bring people together, and the upcoming 25th Anniversary of ADA—all of these factors support the timing of this endeavor.
GOALS of Arts & Access:
- Expand cultural access to all people with disabilities;
- Help cultural Nonprofits build audiences for their events; and
- Promote the benefits of inclusion by telling the stories of how engagement in the arts is transformative.