Arts Alliance: ‘Arts are an industry, not a charity’

New Biggs Museum of American Art director Charles Guerin of Dover stands in front of the new sculpture that sits in front of his museum. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Daniel Cruce, board president of the Delaware Arts Alliance, hoped legislators and delegates would leave the House Hearing Room in Legislative Hall with one takeaway: “the arts are an industry, not a charity.”

“The data shows that spending on the arts in the state reached almost $150 million in 2015,” said Mr. Cruce. “The spending is bigger than just paying the admission charge at the Biggs Museum or purchasing a seat for a show at the Delaware Theater Company — there is a ripple effect when people take part in enjoying the arts in their community. If I’m going to a theater performance, I buy a new tie because I want to look nice. Then, before the show we’ll go out for a drink, and then go to dinner. We may need a dog sitter or a babysitter. The economic activity spreads out.”

On Tuesday, the Delaware Arts Alliance briefed several lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long on the results of “Arts & Economic Prosperity 5”, an economic impact study of Delaware’s nonprofit arts industry. The study was conducted by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit.

The report notes that there are 4,062 full-time employees working in the “Arts and Culture Industry” in the state.

“One thing we want to be clear about is that there are some perception issues; investing in the arts at the state level and local level is an investment in an industry, not charity,” said Mr. Cruce. “Our data helps illuminate that. The arts are an economic driver and jobs creator. These jobs aren’t just directors at organizations or someone who tears your ticket at the ticket booth, we’re also talking about employing plumbers, contractors and all kinds of folks that you don’t normally think about when you walk into a theater or museum.”

Charles Guerin, the director of The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, noted that they spend just under $1 million per year with various vendors statewide.

“We spend it almost exclusively in Delaware,” he said. “We make a point to hire accountants, plumbers, printers, designers or electricians from this community. It’s important for us to keep things local.”

The museum now has 15 full-time staff members that operated it. Mr. Guerin said state aid has helped keep the arts healthy in Delaware.

“Artists are working individuals and they work harder than just about anyone — a lot of them work around the clock in their studios or practicing with their violins and pianos at all hours of the night,” he said. “They work all the time, and unfortunately in our culture, we don’t give them enough credit. So, it’s wonderful that we live in a state that values their contribution. Our state government supports the arts.”

During his presentation, Mr. Cruce said the Delaware taxpayers contribute roughly $3.5 million per year to arts subsidies annual. Referring to the recent study, he said the state and local governments see a return on that investment to the tune of a combined $10 million in added tax revenue.
“This is tax revenue as a result of the economic activity generated by the organizations that are supported in some way, form or fashion by the state,” he said. “That’s almost a three-fold return on investment. This isn’t charity, it’s a good investment for the state.”

The study claims that a consumer of an artistic or cultural experience spends an average of $30.24 per person, per event — and 32 percent of these consumers are said to be non-local.

The director of Clear Space Theater in Rehoboth Beach, Wesley Paulson, said he’s even brought in out-of-state talent to work with the theater company.

“For the last four years, we’ve started bringing in actors from New York,” he said. “They stay here over the summer, and the next thing you know they are out in the community, spending money. We’ve recently been able to grow from a staff of 2.5 up to 5 full-time positions and step up from 10 shows per year to 13 thanks to our recent growth.”

Mr. Pulson also points to the theater’s spending, and spending generated by their performances, as boons to the local economy.

“I just recently looked at our budget, and we do a lot of printing — we’re about to spend $35,000 per year with a vendor in Millville for show programs, rack cards, brochures and things like that,” he said. “Also, restaurants have told us that in the middle of winter, when it’s awfully quiet in downtown, Baltimore Avenue will be jumping on a Friday or Saturday night because we brought 150 people in for a show that will spend their money and generate business.”

Lauding the arts alliance’s efforts, Lt. Gov. Hall-Long presented the group with a proclamation of acknowledgment signed by her and Gov. John Carney.
“We recognize the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Delaware Arts Alliance on behalf of the first state and we’d like to recognize their contribution to the quality of life for all Delawareans,” she said. “All 47 arts and cultural organizations which are part of the alliance, as well as the 800 or so arts alliance advocates across the state, are acknowledged for their quality arts and cultural experiences.”

To learn more about the alliance and read the full economic report, visit delawareartsalliance.org.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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