Ann Arbor Street Art Fair
Susan Montgomery /

May 5, 2015; MLive

NPQ has noted that the arts sector has done an excellent job of tracking its role in local economies, so these stories appear with great regularity in local presses to help inform residents of the multiple gifts brought to thriving communities by these (mostly) nonprofits.

The preliminary results from a new study from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) show a direct impact of more than $100 million from local arts and culture nonprofits.

“The goal is actually very simple,” AAACF CEO Neel Hajra said. “We want to invest in nonprofit arts and culture activities in a way that has a measurable economic benefit for all of Washtenaw County.”

The AAACF contracted with Americans for the Arts in conjunction with the Arts Alliance in Washtenaw County. The survey reached more than 700 individuals (two-thirds are local to the Ann Arbor area) and 87 nonprofit arts and culture organizations. Data collection will continue through the month of May.

“We learned that there is an annual audience of more than 1.78 million people attending nonprofit arts and culture events in the Ann Arbor area,” Hajra said. “This is organization-by-organization data. It is not an estimate.”

The city hosts the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, which attracts over 500,000 attendees from across the nation. Putting admission for events aside, Ann Arbor residents spend an average of $21.05 per event on food, drink, parking, souvenirs, and other purchases. People who travel into Ann Arbor, however, spend an average of $45.58 per event, which includes lodging costs. This puts total audience spending at more than $52 million per year. By adding the $50 million that local nonprofits pay to the community, the total economic impact is approximately $102 million per year. Not to mention, the nonprofit sector employs 2,617 full-time equivalent positions, which accounts for $67,584,000 in household income.

“What this tells me is that the arts and culture sector isn’t a ‘nice to have’ for the community, it’s a ‘must have,’” Hajra said. “There’s many competing priorities out there, there’s many options you have for entertainment, but what you can really do to advance prosperity in Washtenaw County is go forth, get out, and get enriched by the local nonprofit arts and culture center. By that, you’re advancing our economy.”

The study will be finalized in June, with complete results posted online in Summer 2015.—Erin Lamb