Ten Reasons to Invest in Wisconsin’s Creative Sector

Created by Sheila Smith with assistance from Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts.
updated 6-27-17

1.  Arts promote true prosperity and are fundamental to humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2.  Arts mean business. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. A 2015 analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 9,985 businesses in Wisconsin involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 42,183 people—representing 3.2 percent of the state’s businesses and 1.4 percent of its employees.  Creative Industries map here.

3.  Arts strengthen the economy.

  • The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector is a $730 billion industry, representing 4.2% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Project), according to the latest data from 2014.  The sector packs a larger punch for the economy than tourism, transportation and agriculture.  More info here.
  • In Wisconsin, the nonprofit arts industry alone generates $657 million in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences), resulting in nearly $75 million in local and state tax revenues, 26,695 in full-time equivalent jobs and $555 million in resident income, according to a study released in 2017 by the Wisconsin Arts Board and Americans for the Arts.

4.  Arts are good for local merchants. Attendees at Wisconsin’s nonprofit arts events spend $19.06 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Nine percent of the 9.4 million nonprofit arts attendees come from outside of Wisconsin. Those 806,000 attendees spend nearly twice as much as residents ($33.02 vs. $17.73)—valuable revenue for businesses and communities across the state.

5.  Arts drive tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown steadily since 2003 (18 to 28 percent). The share attending concerts and theater performances has grown from 14 to 18 percent since 2003.

6.  Arts are an export industry. U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) grew to $75 billion in 2012, while imports were just $27 billion—a $47 billion arts trade surplus.   Click here to learn more about these stats.

7.  Arts spark creativity and innovation. The Conference Board reports that creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “The arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.” Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than average scientists.

8.  Arts have social impact. University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower crime and poverty rates. The arts are used by the U.S. Military to promote troop force and family readiness, resilience, retention and for the successful reintegration of veterans into family and community life.

9.  Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points higher on the verbal and math portions of their SATs than students with just one-half year of arts or music.

10.  Arts improve healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.