You read in the paper that a local theater is staging a play you’ve been dying to see. Let’s just say, for the sake of example, it’s The Flick at Circuit Playhouse (an ArtsMemphis grantee).

The seats are $40 each, but you need a babysitter for the kids. That’ll be $12 an hour– $13 since you’re a softy.  Done.  And now that you’ve lined up a sitter, you decide to make a night of it. So you call in reservations at Iri—no, scratch that, Iris is booked. You call in reservations at Bosco’s.

The big day rolls around and you’re having a blast. Dinner and drinks are $63.40, the play is superb, and the weather is, well, almost tolerable. You text the sitter to say that you’ll be another hour and walk with your spouse to Lafayette’s for cocktails.  

Then you feel a pang of guilt for having fun without the kids. You stop at Sweet Noshings to get them a treat. Let’s just say, for the sake of example, it’s two packets of freeze-dried “astronaut ice cream” at $5.25 apiece. Add $8 of truffles for the parents. Then cocktails to the tune of $16. OK, maybe one more round. Make it $32.
 
Shall we take stock? In the course of this one night out, you’ve invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $275 in our local economy. All because you were dying to see a play.

Your own story might be different. Maybe it involves a free concert at the Levitt Shell, listening to great music and then dropping major coin on food trucks. Or a visit to the Metal Museum that started with a tour of brilliant sculptures and ended with an impulse-buying spree at the gift shop.

The point is, the arts are a boon to our economy. And now we’ve got proof, thanks to the newly released Arts & Economic Prosperity Study (“AEP5”) — a nationwide research effort by Americans for the Arts to quantify the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture.

ArtsMemphis led a group of 71 Shelby County arts organizations that contributed to the study, as part of a statewide effort overseen by the Tennessee Arts Commission. 

According to AEP5, combined statewide spending by Tennessee’s arts patrons and arts organizations weighed in at a whopping $1.17 billion in 2015. Yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’. 

Of that total, spending within Shelby County alone was nearly $200 million — effectively sustaining the equivalent of more than 6,000 full-time jobs. What’s more, our local arts scene attracted over 2.5 million attendees– enough to make it the second largest attraction in the county right behind Beale Street and ahead of Bass Pro.

The bottom line? Shelby County’s nonprofit arts industry generates millions of dollars in discretionary spending. It attracts legions of tourists. And it supports thousands of jobs. 

Let’s stop calling the arts a charity or a nonprofit. The arts are big business.

William Murray is director of development and communications for ArtsMemphis.

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Tour of new Ballet Memphis headquarters Part 1
Tom Bailey/The Commercial Appeal

 

 

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