The arts and culture sector is big business in St. Louis, and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC) has the data to back it up. The latest Americans for the Arts Economic & Prosperity 6 (AEP) study was released on Oct. 23 at Cultura, a new research, arts and culture conference created by RAC.
“The economic and social impact the arts and culture sector has on St. Louis is undeniable,” said Vanessa Cooksey, RAC president and CEO. “Our nonprofit organizations contribute the local economy every day – employing thousands of people, creating unique and high-quality experiences for millions of attendees, and through daily operational expenditures.”
The St. Louis arts and culture sector provides nearly 12,000 jobs to residents in the region – contributing more than $611 million in wages. More than 8.1 million local and out-of-town tourists attend theatre performances, concerts, art fairs, festivals, and more.
“People who live outside St. Louis were asked about the main reason they took a trip to our region,” said Cooksey. “Four out of every five people said it was because of the arts. When these people come to town, they stay in hotels. When they stay in hotels, it generates tax revenue for RAC. In turn, we provide grants to hundreds of local organizations and artists. It’s a win-win-win”
Attendance at arts events generates income for local businesses—restaurants, parking garages, hotels, retail stores. On average, a local tourist spends about $31 every time they attend an arts and culture event in St. Louis. Out-of-town tourists spend more than $53.
The report added, “if a community fails to provide a variety of opportunities to experience the arts and culture, it risks not attracting cultural tourists and their valuable dollars as well as losing the discretionary spending of its own residents who will travel elsewhere in search of the diverse artistic expressions and authentic cultural experiences they seek.”
According to the report, a large majority of attendees, 89%, said that the activity or venue they were attending was a source of civic pride in the community. Almost 85% said they would feel a sense of loss if that activity or venue was no longer available.
“RAC has produced AEP data for the last 30 years. Every study has confirmed the positive economic and social impact the arts have in St. Louis,” said Cooksey. “We want artists, arts administrators as well as business and civic leaders to use the findings in this report to strengthen St. Louis’ position as a leader in inclusive economic growth.”
“The data from the AEP 6 study is a powerful validation that arts and culture are an economic driver at the community level,” said Nolen Bivens, president of Americans for the Arts. “St. Louis, a founding and 30-year partner in this work is a prime example of a city with vibrant arts and culture offerings that attracts attendees both locally and from out of town. And these offerings have contributed greatly to that community’s civic pride and wellbeing.”
About AEP6 Data Collection:
To measure the impact of spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations in the Greater St. Louis Area, RAC first identified the universe of eligible organizations in the community. Those organizations were then asked to complete a survey about their fiscal year 2022 expenses and attendance. A total of 233 organizations participated in the survey. The findings in this report are based on the data provided only by those 233 organizations; no estimates or extrapolations have been made to account for non-participating organizations.
To measure the impact of spending by arts and culture audiences in Greater St. Louis, data were collected from 1,973 attendees between May 2022 and June 2023. Researchers used an audience-intercept methodology, a standard technique in which attendees to in-person performances, events, and activities are asked to complete a brief survey about their spending related to that event, opinions about the social impact of the arts, ZIP code of their primary address, and basic socioeconomic information. Surveys took place only while attendees were attending the event.
The Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 study (AEP6) is an economic and social impact study of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry. Building on its 30-year legacy as the largest and most inclusive study of its kind, AEP6 provides detailed findings on 373 regions from across all 50 states and Puerto Rico—ranging in population from 4,000 to 4 million—and representing rural, suburban, and large urban communities. The study is based on the 2022 fiscal year. This study excludes individual artists and the for-profit arts and entertainment sector (e.g., Broadway, popular music concert tours, or the motion picture industry)—all vital and valued components of the nation’s arts landscape but beyond the scope of this study.