“The arts inspire us, soothe us, provoke us, involve us and connect us. But they also create jobs and contribute to the economy.” — Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.
Thanks to small nonprofit art galleries tucked away in the corners of the city, to soaring performances put on by the students of Colorado Springs Conservatory, to displays of both modern and classic masters at the Fine Arts Center, there is no lack of art to inspire, provoke and connect the residents of Colorado Springs.
And thanks to a resurgent economy, the support of the business community and a talented pool of artists, the economic impact of those efforts on the Pikes Peak region is on a steady growth curve.
That’s evident in the latest figures from Americans for the Arts, a national organization that focuses on promoting the link between arts and business. The Pikes Peak region study, done every five years and sponsored by the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, along with El Paso County, shows that arts and culture generate $153.3 million in annual economic activity. The impact breaks down to $51.2 million for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, with an additional $102.1 million in event-related spending.
It equates to 5,070 full-time-equivalent jobs and $10.8 million in household income. State and local governments receive $15.9 million in tax revenue from the arts in the region.
And compared to the 2010 numbers, arts as an industry has seen phenomenal growth. That year, the study showed $72 million in direct economic impact for arts and culture for the Pikes Peak region. But COPPeR Executive Director Andy Vick — and Americans for the Arts — caution against reading too much into the comparison.
“Remember, we were just getting out of a recession in 2010,” Vick said. “And so much about the study depends on changes in methodology, the number of organizations who participate. I think we did a strong job this year getting the word out to arts organizations.”
With all the caveats, Vick still is pleased with the results.
“That said, the numbers are significantly better in all sorts of measures,” Vick said. “Without a doubt, the arts community is growing; more people are engaging in the arts. All the trends are going in a wonderfully positive way.”
With upward trends in arts and culture comes a changing perception about Colorado Springs. The city is in the beginning stages of participating in the Front Range Arts Coalition in partnership with Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.
The collaboration with its northern neighbors shows that the Springs is becoming better known for its thriving arts scene, plays and productions, music, theater and galleries.
But the Springs still lags behind Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins in ars investment.
“Other cities invest more,” Vick said. “Denver, especially, is so far ahead of us. They have the tax that covers seven counties in its Scientific Facilities and Cultural District, and it generates between $50 [million] and $55 million a year for the arts. That’s one-third what the National Endowment for the Arts has to spend for the entire nation. So with that kind of public investment, it’s no wonder they have such a vibrant arts scene.”
Since the Springs doesn’t have an arts-and-culture tax, Vick said the nonprofit arts community finds funding resources through innovation and the business community.
“We have to be scrappy,” he said. “We have to do what we do through innovation and through private funders. We rely heavily on the business community, on the generosity of individuals.”
And that effort is paying off.
“The outside perception of Colorado Springs is changing,” Vick said. “We still have some way to go, but we’ve made good progress. Extrapolate our current numbers forward, and we’ll have data from the Olympic Museum and the Ent Center [for the Arts at UCCS]. One could surmise that the numbers will be even more robust. But we are much further along than we were five years ago, which is a great thing.”
Credit for the economic success of the arts goes to the groups making the arts, Vick said.
“We’re so fortunate to have the people here, doing what they love, what we all love,” he said. “They get the credit for the success. They are doing amazing things with amazing results.”
To learn more about arts in the Pikes Peak region and results of the study, attend Coffee with COPPeR on July 12 at Armstrong Hall, 14 E. Cache la Poudre St., on the Colorado College campus. n CSBJ