Bridges are important. They are designed to connect people and places. They support and encourage traffic and, often, they become a key physical identifier of a city.
Every day, I cross a bridge on my way to and from work—and it gives me the best view of Peoria. I get a 30-second snapshot of business, commerce, entertainment and city living, attractively situated alongside our beautiful riverfront. I smile to myself and think, “This is why I moved back home after six years of working in Manhattan… Peoria has so much to offer!”
The bridge gets me from point A to point B, but it also reminds me that the town in which I was born is beautiful, engaging and attractive. The more I go over that bridge—the more I see the view—the more I want to invest in my community. You know where I am going with this, right?
Think about the last time you attended an arts event. Perhaps you treated your ears to a Peoria Symphony Orchestra concert or mingled with local artists on a First Friday. Maybe you enjoyed outdoor theatre under Corn Stock’s big-top-style tent or marveled over a new collection exhibited at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. How did that experience make you feel about life in central Illinois? Uplifted? Encouraged? Excited? If you’re like me, you may have found yourself saying, “I love living here… Peoria has so much to offer!”
Congratulations! You’ve just traversed the metaphorical “arts bridge” and found a breathtaking view of Peoria at its best. Chances are, it won’t be long before you want to experience that view again.
Investing in Arts and Culture
Arts and cultural experiences make us feel good about where we live and keep us attached to our community. According to Arts & Economic Prosperity V—the latest report from Americans for the Arts—87 percent of Americans believe arts and culture are important to quality of life, and 73 percent believe the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.” The arts have the capacity to unite us through shared positive experiences. They provide us with a beautiful snapshot of Peoria culture, a view that instills in us pride for our city and region.
Practically speaking, however, people don’t invest in building bridges for the views they provide. Bridges are built and maintained to support traffic, drive commerce and strengthen the economic infrastructure of a region. Can the arts do that as well? You bet they can!
Arts and culture are, in fact, an industry—one that supports jobs, generates government revenue and drives tourism. Like all industries, spending by arts organizations has a measurable economic impact. Unlike many industries, the arts and culture sector generates a bounty of additional event-related spending that benefits local businesses. How? Let’s again revisit your last local arts outing.
What other dollars did you spend above and beyond the price of your symphony ticket or museum pass? You may have paid the babysitter, stopped at the gas station to fill up the tank, enjoyed a fabulous meal at a local restaurant, paid for parking, and even capped off the evening with drinks or dessert before heading home. The good news is that this additional spending stayed local. Even better: We have the research to back it up!
In 2010, the Greater Peoria Area – Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report revealed that for every ticket purchased to an arts event, an additional $16 went back into the local economy in the form of event-related spending. Now, $16 by itself may not sound impressive. But when you multiply that by the thousands of arts events attended by tens of thousands of individuals each year, you start to see a clearer picture of the economic impact of the arts and culture sector.
In fact, that same study estimated Greater Peoria’s arts and culture sector to be a $20.4 million industry, supporting 850 full-time-equivalent jobs and delivering $2.2 million in local and state government revenue. Not only is the local arts industry providing us with an enhanced appreciation of the quality of life in central Illinois, it is strengthening our economic infrastructure by safeguarding jobs, generating commerce and driving tourism. That is one important bridge!
Through this lens, supporting the arts ceases to be a conversation about charitable giving and becomes one of investing in an industry that strengthens and upholds a healthy, local economy.
The Business of Art
At ArtsPartners, our mission is to build awareness and strengthen the arts community for the cultural and economic enrichment of central Illinois. I often remind people that the best way they can support the arts is to simply “do business” with local arts organizations, arts businesses and artists.
Buy season tickets or memberships as holiday and birthday gifts. Outfit your office space and decorate the walls of your home with locally-produced artwork. Challenge yourself to experience a new performance venue or gallery space each month. Reward your child’s good behavior with a trip to the ballet or the theater. Attend an arts lecture or sign up for a wine-and-paint night with friends.
There are dozens of things to do here, every day, that will inspire you and keep you excited about the place you call home. And don’t forget: artspartners.net is an incredible resource to keep you connected and informed about arts-related events, workshops and classes.
Invest in your community arts bridge and traverse it often. Your investment stays local, supporting a healthy economy and a vibrant culture. Plus, the view will undoubtedly keep you excited about living here in central Illinois for many years to come. PM
Jenn Gordon is executive director of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois. Explore the region’s vibrant arts scene at artspartners.net.