Arts and culture a boon to the county

Jon Broderick, far right, plays a song at the Arts Council of Clatsop County reception on Thursday in the taproom at Buoy Beer Co. in Astoria.

Clatsop County reaped more than $13 million in 2015 from arts and cultural organizations.

The finding comes from a national study conducted by economists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and funded by Americans for the Arts, an advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. The economists focused on data from 22 nonprofit organizations in the county.

Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, presented the findings at a gathering of local artists and public officials Thursday night at Buoy Beer Co.

After including the Portland and Eugene metro areas in previous studies, the organization coordinated with the Oregon Arts Commission and the Arts Council of Clatsop County to analyze data on the North Coast.

“This is the first time in the county that we’ve had some hard data,” said Don Frank, chairman of the arts council. “We don’t have to just stand up there and say it. It’s like, ‘Here, read it.’”

The survey also found that arts in the county support 359 full-time equivalent jobs, add $6.7 million in household income for local residents and $1.3 million in local and state government revenue.

The aggregate amount of money spent, including for overnight lodging, meals and souvenirs, by the more than 160,000 arts and cultural event attendees was more than $10 million. Out of all the visitors who traveled from outside the county to an attend an art event, 66 percent said they visited the county specifically for that event.

More than 300 communities participated in the study across the country. Nonprofit art organizations were found to have contributed $166.3 billion to the national economy, or more than 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. The retail industry, in comparison, accounts for 5.8 percent of GDP.

The arts also supported 4.6 million jobs and added $27.5 billion to governments at the local, state and federal levels. Cohen hopes the study illustrates that spending money on the arts is more than simply a charitable decision.

“Those dollars don’t just disappear in some black hole of goodness,” he said. “It’s giving back to the community, cultural benefits and economic impact. Show me another industry in our community that provides that kind of benefit to the populace.”

Allison Tigard, a member of the arts council, said the ability to reveal economic data has been the 3-year-old organization’s top event thus far.

County Commissioner Sarah Nebeker recalled Thursday a moment prior to her first election in 2012, when she met with Brian Wagner, community arts coordinator for the Oregon Arts Commission. Soon before she decided to run, the two agreed that arts and culture needed more attention within county government.

“I did see, and I still see, this area of the North Coast as being at the precipice in just fabulous growth in the creative economy,” Wagner said.

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