Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis Launches Major Study Measuring Impact of the Arts in Region

August 30, 2022

Photo: Randy Cohen, vice president of research, American for the Arts

For the first time in many years, the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC) hosted a convening of arts and culture leaders on August 30 to mark the launch of Americans for the Arts: Arts and Economic Prosperity Study 6 (AEP6) in St. Louis – a massive, comprehensive study of how arts organizations contribute to the St. Louis economy. More than 350 arts organizations, artists and community members attended the event at The Sheldon.

Watch a recording of the event. 

“The Arts and Economic Prosperity Study 6 is a mission critical endeavor for RAC. We have participated in this study since its inception, more than 25 years ago,” said Vanessa Cooksey, RAC president and CEO. “We know that convincing our government and civic leaders to act requires more than an earnest appeal to an individual’s morals, it takes demonstrating economic value and return on investment.”

By partnering with Americans for the Arts, RAC has been able to calculate the economic impact of the arts and culture sector in this region since the study’s inception.

Read the story from St. Louis Public Radio about AEP6.


AEP6 is conducted approximately every five years to gauge the economic impact (on employment, government revenue, and household income) of spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and the event-related spending by their audiences. The AEP6 study is being conducted in partnership with local and state research partners representing the 395 participating communities. Each community will receive a customized report based on their own surveys of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences. An economic model will be tailored for each community to provide specific data about the industry’s impact on local jobs and government revenue. Reports will have many features including cross-community comparisons with other AEP6 communities, analyses of how spending differs between resident attendees and cultural tourists, and clear explanations of the methodology and how to use the data effectively.

In fiscal year 2015, Americans for the Arts conducted its fifth study of the economic impact of arts and culture activity in the Greater St. Louis region and Grand Center Arts and Entertainment District.
The study revealed that local arts and culture nonprofit organizations produced 19,129 full-time equivalent jobs and generated $476 million in household income all while yielding $57.6 million in local and state government revenue that year.

More than 86% of tourists say they traveled to St. Louis to attend an arts and culture event specifically. Tourists spend, on average, 120 percent more than local residents when visiting an arts and culture event in St. Louis.


Statistics can only paint a part of the picture. The meaning behind AEP6 helps show the true impact of the arts and culture sector on the St. Louis region.

  • Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are businesses
    • They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from within the community, are members of their Chambers of Commerce, and attract tourists to the region.
      • The arts drive commerce to local businesses.
  • The arts, unlike most industries, leverage significant amounts of event-related spending by their audiences.
    • In 2017, arts attendees spent $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and lodging—vital income for local businesses.
  • Arts travelers are ideal tourists
    • They stay longer and spend more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. One-third of attendees travel from outside the St. Louis County in which the activity takes place and spend an average of $48 per person. (69% say they traveled specifically to attend the activity.)
  • Small investments often lead to big returns
    • In 2017, the combined $5 billion in direct arts funding by local, state, and federal governments yielded $27.5 billion in government revenue nationwide.


The collection of AEP6 data is a labor-intensive task. Led by Arts & Economic Prosperity Study 6 Lead MK Stallings, the research team has spent the last three months collecting audience-intercept surveys from attendees to in-person arts and culture events taking place in St. Louis. This task will continue through April 2023.