Tracking the State of the Arts

Arts are key to the economic development in the Lehigh Valley and have never been more important. Hundreds of creative industries, nonprofit cultural organizations, and thousands of individual artists of all disciplines—dance, musical, theatrical, visual, literary and media arts—are invested in our community. We give that reality voice through arts research and by making sure data is gathered and made public.

Data collection and analysis are essential advocacy tools. In the past twenty years, the region had experienced tremendous growth, but the current Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study reveals a 10% downturn. The Lehigh Valley Arts Council undertakes research to track both the economic impact of the nonprofit cultural industry and the arts education practices in the three counties. This research is vital for the community to make informed decisions about future arts policies.

Economic impact

of the nonprofit arts industry

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. The results of this research clearly demonstrates that the arts mean big business in the region.

Currently, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, in cooperation with the Lehigh Valley Partnership, is hosting the “Whose Business is the Arts? “ public forum to release the results of the data and what that means for the Lehigh Valley. Ninety-eight nonprofit arts and cultural organizations submitted data for Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study.

View the summary of Arts & Economic Prosperity 5

Lehigh Valley Arts = Business & Jobs

  • The 2017 economic impact study of the region’s nonprofit arts industry revealed a $186 million industry—one that provides 6,908 full-time jobs and generates $18.8 million in state and local taxes annually.
  • The creative industries number 1,405 nonprofit and for-profit businesses and employ 7,714 employees – comprising 3.8% of all businesses and 2.3% of all employees in the region.
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
TOTAL EXPENDITURES $113M $169M $208M $186M
FULL-TIME JOBS 3,652 6,216 7,114 6,908
LOCAL GOV’T REVENUE $2.7M $6.8M $8.2M $7.1M
STATE GOV’T REVENUE $7.6M $11.1M $13.1M $11.7M

Whose Business is the Arts?


On Friday, September 8, 2017, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council and the Lehigh Valley Partnership will co-sponsor an important public forum on the arts, the economy and our community. Whose Business is the Arts? will bring 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.

Stimulating a dialogue to promote sustainability for the nonprofit arts and culture industry and foster stronger alliances between the arts, business, foundation and government sectors.

“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.” – Randall Forte

Friday, September 8, 2017   |   8:00am to 11:30am
DeSales University   |  Center Valley, PA

More information

Arts in Education

littlegirl1The Lehigh Valley Arts Council worked to administer the State of Arts-in-Education K-12 Study in the public and private schools in the twenty-two districts in our three-county region during this past 2014-15 academic year. Data collection ended on June 12, 2015, and we are currently working to compile the results.

The 2008 study “Snapshot of the State of Arts-in-Education in K-12” provided a base line from which to determine the impact of the recent economic downturn on the amount of arts practices and the number of arts specialists in our schools. Once the analysis and report are completed in the summer 2015, the Arts Council plans to co-host a public forum in Fall 2015 and release the results.

Goals of the Arts-in-Education Study:
  • to unite the educational community around the value and role of arts education;
  • to develop a network of arts-in-education practitioners and advocates that can learn from each other’s successes in overcoming obstacles and making a positive impact on learning; and
  • to engage all 22 districts’ faculty and principals.

All answers are confidential. The data that was collected will be analyzed in the aggregate, and no individual school or school district will be cited in the reporting. In order to ensure privacy, the records of the study will be kept in a locked file; only the researchers will have access to the records.

Cultural Accessibility

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.

arts & access logoIn 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.

Visit the Arts & Access Portal