The Arts Partnership’s President & CEO Dayna Del Val presented the findings of the Americans for the Arts Arts and Economics Study to the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues breakfast on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.
Del Val was quick to point out that while the findings from the study are impressive, and she was glad to have measurable information to present to the business sector, for her, this was not the real value of the arts. “As an artist, numbers don’t have that much meaning to me,” she said. “The real value of the arts is that they preserve our culture, they create place, they develop important ways of thinking and moving in the world, and most valuably, they make us human and define our humanity.”
Many aspects of the study provided unexpected data, but Del Val was most surprised by the background information of the more than 1,000 random people who filled out audience surveys at 26 area nonprofit art events between October 2015-December 2016.
“Forty-two percent of our residents and 30% of our nonresidents are under 55, and an important 12% and 14%, respectively, are the Millennials we are all chasing,” noted Del Val. “We’re always told that arts audiences are getting grayer, but that is not what our numbers show.”
In looking at the nonresidents coming for arts and culture with a two-year degree or less, Del Val continued, “So often the arts are perceived as being pretentious and only for the wealthy, but our numbers just don’t bear that out. Thirty-two percent of our reported households make fewer than $60,000 and 36.5% of our visitors fall into the same bracket.”
As for education, it is easy to assume with our three institutions of high education and our major hospital system in the Metro, that the great majority of arts patrons are highly educated. In an unexpected turn, 33% of the nonresidents coming to the Metro specifically to enjoy an arts nonprofit event or performance have a two-year degree or less. “That’s a powerful number and an indication that we might be able to attract some of those people to actually move to the Metro for jobs because they appreciate and support the arts and culture going on here,” Del Val continued.
While the nonprofit arts sector generates an impressive $41.6 million in spending in the FM Metro, we are still behind other regional communities in terms of per capita spending. In fact, in looking at eight other communities, The FM Metro ranks last in per capita support.
The greater FM metro spends $235 per capita, greater Des Moines, IA, spends $303. At the top? Missoula, MT spends a whopping $1,033 per capita on art and culture.
“The fastest growing community in the Midwest is Des Moines,” Del Val said. “They had 2% growth in 2016, but do you know which city is second? Fargo. At 1.9% growth, we can and should be not only equal with Des Moines, we should be beating them. They don’t have three, four-year institutions of higher education, they don’t have a Microsoft and they don’t have a huge hospital system comparable to Sanford. But do you know what they do have? Art and Culture. Ask any person involved in the economic or business sectors there, and they will absolutely tell you that art and culture is what sets them apart. We simply must do more to grow our arts and culture in the Metro if we want to be competitive.”
Del Val was later joined on stage by Karin Rudd, Executive Vice President Gate City Bank; Jodi Zabel Duncan, President Flint Group and Jack Yakowicz, Marketing Manager Office Sign Company. They answered questions from the audience and shared their individual and corporate reasons for supporting the arts.
“If we want to stave off the employment crisis that our community is absolutely already in, we need to forge much stronger, more active relationships with the business sector,” Del Val concluded. “When we are in reciprocal relationship with them, their investment in the arts directly benefits their ability to attract and retain employees, create a more dynamic community and better live our their missions and values. In short, everybody wins.”
For additional reporting, read this article from the West Fargo Pioneer.