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Arts Study: Ohio's 'Creative Economy' Worth $41B

The arts are often trumpeted as an amenity that makes Ohio a better place to live, but a new study suggests that the state’s writers, performers and other creatives account for a

$41-billion contribution to the economy.

The study also defines creative workers more broadly than people may typically think by including people working in fields like media and design.

The arts advocacy organization Ohio Citizens for the Arts (OCA) released the data this week.  Executive director Bill Behrendt said that lawmakers will be making key decisions this year about the state budget, and OCA wants arts and culture to be in the conversation.

“Because it’s a budget year, and because there are so many new lawmakers out there – almost a quarter of the General Assembly is brand new this year – we want to make sure that our elected officials know just how big an economic driver the arts are,” he said.

OCA tapped Bowling Green State University to conduct the survey, which divides the state’s creative output into six categories: museums and collections; performing arts; visual arts and photography; film, radio and television; design and publishing and schools and service.

The economic impact is big: 289,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in tax revenue, according to the study.

Behrendt noted these revenues don’t always come from the big cities. Rural areas account for 30% of the total.

“Maybe there’s a misconception that the arts tend to be elitist or centralized in the big metropolitan areas,” Behrendt said.  “One of the things that we found from the study is that’s not necessarily the case.”

There are many community theaters spread across the state, for example.  And thanks to technology, a recording studio can be located just about anywhere.

OCA and Bowling Green issued a similar report in 2013, but Behrendt said this one drilled deeper into the data and pulled out some regional numbers. Of the state’s major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), Cleveland and Columbus were tied as the tops in Ohio’s arts economy, generating about $9 billion each.

The impact of specific creative industries was also measured, breaking down the numbers for museums, parks and historical sites ($541,934,059), performing arts companies ($787,359,858), as well as independent artists, writers and performers ($1,274,620,387).  But, the most revenue was generated by advertising and public relations ($4,957,009,575) --- a sector many people probably don’t associate with the arts.

“And that’s another misconception that we’d like to change,” Behrendt said. “The arts are really about moving to a knowledge-based and creative thinking economy. If we’re trying to teach our children and educate them for future employment, the jobs of tomorrow don’t necessarily exist today. One of the ways we can do that is to stimulate creative thinking. That’s the role that the arts play in this.”

The OCA study lists over 500 businesses across the state that employ artists in some capacity, from paper mills to car washes. Those jobs range from designing logos to writing ad copy.

“In the same way that a performing arts theater has to hire administrative staff, it’s kind of a role reversal for industries that you might not consider being part of the creative industry,” Behrendt said.  “But yet, they have dedicated staff people who are doing creative work for them.”

Behrendt hopes the reaction of legislators to the study will be “shock and awe.”

“These are staggering numbers,” he said. “Especially when the economy is always at the top of the priority list for lawmakers.  Just a small amount of public funding goes a long way and plays a big role in the economy, in creating jobs. We expect a good reception.”

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