Study: Denver metro arts generate $1.8 billion in economic activity


Denver metro arts, cultural and scientific organizations generated  $1.8 billion in annual economic activity in 2015, according to a study released this morning that is conducted every two years by the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts.

Of that total, the study showed a total economic impact of $512.8 million – which specifically represents new money injected into the economy in 2015.

The survey showed that metro arts and science groups draw 13.9 million in attendance, reach nearly 4 million children through their educational outreach programs, and are responsible for 10,731 full-time jobs. In return, citizens and foundations gave $176.4 million to local arts organizations in 2015.

Download the complete Economic Activity Study

While the $1.8 billion total amounts to a 2.2 percent decline since the most recent study in 2013, CBCA Executive Director Deborah Jordy said the results again show the cultural community’s conitinued “significant and sustained on our local, state and regional economy by creating jobs and providing extensive outreach to metro area schools.”

Jordy attributed the overall decline since 2013 to less capital investment than in previous years. But she pointed out that jobs in arts, cultural and scientific organizations have reached pre-great recession levels. And cultural tourism, measured by dollars spent at cultural organizations by people from outside the metro area, contributed $367 million – the highest total recorded to date.

(Pictured above right: DCPA Education students participate in the culmination of its annual statewide teen playwriting competition. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

The $1.8 billion overall figure includes $894 million in audience spending, $860 million in operating expenditures and $55 million in capital expenditures.

“Coloradans understand that tourism is a key driver for our economy. And cultural tourism’s contributions to that effort are important factors in our state’s overall success,” said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. “Couple those contributions with the total economic activity and jobs created and you begin to understand what key, long-term contributors our cultural organizations are to the overall economic health of our state.”

Other key findings from the report, which has been issued every two years since 1992: 

  • Corporate sponsorships in the arts were up more than 10 percent since 2013.
  • Outreach to children through educational institutions ensured an average of more than seven arts experiences annually for each metro area student.
  • Following jobs, total payroll for cultural organizations was up more than 9 percent.
  • Free attendance increased by 3 percent since 2013, indicating increased emphasis on access by cultural organizations.
  • Total volunteer hours are up 15 percent over 2013 at 2 million.

 According to the National Endowment for the Arts, Colorado ranks third in the nation in terms of per capita attendance at live dance, music and theatre performances.

Jordy said the continued success of the arts in Colorado is attributable in large part to the taxpayer-supported Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), which since 1989 has distributed funds from a sales and use tax to cultural facilities throughout the seven-county metropolitan area. In 2013, the tax generated $53.2 million for more than 300 arts and science organizations in metro Denver. A public vote for reauthorization of SCFD will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts depends on the SCFD for about 10 percent of its operating budget. The nation’s largest non-profit theatre organization is coming off its most successful season ever, having welcomed 1.2 million guests in 2015-16.That includes engaging with 85,000 through its Education programs.

“The DCPA is encouraged by the tremendous engagement shown throughout our community in support of art and culture as illustrated in the CBCA’s 2016 study,” said CEO Janice Sinden.

“The DCPA contributes significantly to the economic impact of our arts community. Over the past five years, ticket sales at Broadway, Cabaret, Theatre Company and Off-Center shows alone have generated a $600 million economic impact.

“This love of the performing arts, combined with our community’s level of engagement, enable organizations such as the DCPA to attract top talent and Broadway’s biggest hits, including Hamilton and the pre-Broadway debut of Disney’s Frozen.”

About the Economic Activity Study

The biennial Economic Activity Study of Metro Denver Culture compiles data from all nonprofit organizations who received funds through the SCFD within a seven-county region: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson. This study examines self-reported data from 264 cultural organizations in the 2015 calendar year with a 100 percent response rate.

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