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September 13. 2012 9:36PM

Study says arts in NH generate $115.1 million for the economy

CONCORD — Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in the state will have new ammunition in their struggle for funding, thanks to a statewide survey detailing the economic impact the organizations have on the New Hampshire economy, according to Van McLeod, commissioner for the state’s Department of Cultural Resources.

Prepared by Americans for the Arts, the survey targeted all nonprofit arts or cultural organizations in the state, with 21 percent responding. For-profit venues like the Verizon Wireless Arena or the Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion were not included in the study.

Titled “Arts & Economic Prosperity IV: Report for the State of New Hampshire,” the study says the organizations and their audiences generated $115.1 million in economic activity, $11.6 million in local and state government revenue, and supported the equivalent of 3,493 full-time jobs.

This is the fourth study conducted by the national group, but the first year New Hampshire has participated. Even though a large number of the state’s arts groups did not participate, most of the larger organizations provided the financial data and conducted the audience surveys required for the report. The Music Hall in Portsmouth, Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord and the Palace Theatre in Manchester were among the venues included.

The report underscores the extent to which arts and culture attractions are a draw for out-of-state visitors, reporting that 19.8 percent of the audiences surveyed were nonresidents. “In addition to purchasing tickets, they spent an average of $34.70 per event on non-ticket items such as hotel rooms, meals, parking, shopping and other purchases,” said the report, adding that 8.4 percent of the nonresidents stayed at least one night away from home, further adding to their economic impact in local expenditures and state taxes, particularly rooms and meals tax receipts.

The survey is based on data provided by 161 of the state’s approximately 773 nonprofit arts and culture organizations, and surveys completed by 3,433 audience members in 2011, detailing how much they spent at local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages and other businesses. Spending by audiences added up to $62.1 million in economic activity, combined with the $53 million spent annually by the organizations themselves, for the $115.1 million total.

According to McLeod, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “That only deals with the 21 percent of organizations responding to the survey,” he said. “There’s no multiplier in there for all the other nonprofits, nor do those numbers include all the individual craftsmen, the for-profit component of our arts and cultural community, or organizations like dance schools.”

New Hampshire was one of 10 states participating this year in the Americans for the Arts survey. The organization, based in Washington, D.C., and New York City, describes itself as “the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.”

In addition to the statewide report, several communities commissioned local studies as part of the survey, including Concord, Portsmouth, Newmarket, Rochester and a coalition of North Country towns. Money was raised at the local level to pay for those studies, while the statewide report was funded by a $22,000 grant by the Putnam Foundation, based in Keene.

“By demonstrating that investing in the arts and culture yields economic benefits, (the study) lays to rest a common perception that communities support the arts and culture at the expense of local economic development,” wrote the report authors.

McLeod said the study will enable arts groups to tell their story of economic impact in more concrete terms, especially if the state participates in future studies, using this year’s as a benchmark.

“It allows cultural organizations to have a different kind of conversation that helps with their fundraising,” McLeod said. “It also helps them with their selectmen or city councils or whoever it may be to get them to understand how they fit into the community. Individual organizations can use this information to help them tell their story.”

A complete copy of the study is available at www.nh.gov/nhculture/mediaroom/2012/economic_study.htm.

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Dave Solomon may be reached at dsolomon@unionleader.com.



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