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Arts spending makes Durham ‘cultural capital of North Carolina’

Kidznotes' Sofia Gee plays the violin with jazz artist Al Strong (L) during the Art of Cool concert at Lucky Strike water tower at American Tobacco in April. Art of Cool participated in the Arts & Economic Prosperity study.
Kidznotes' Sofia Gee plays the violin with jazz artist Al Strong (L) during the Art of Cool concert at Lucky Strike water tower at American Tobacco in April. Art of Cool participated in the Arts & Economic Prosperity study. The Herald-Sun

The arts in Durham have been championed not just for their contribution to civic life but as an economic-growth tool.

Durham’s downtown redevelopment was largely built on the concept of an arts and entertainment district. The Carolina Theatre and Durham Performing Arts Center are just two notable public investments in the arts.

Does this investment pay anything back to taxpayers? A report released Monday says yes.

Local nonprofit arts organizations in Durham County added $154.17 million in spending to the economy in fiscal year 2015, according to the fifth Arts & Economic Prosperity study. Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit, conducted the survey. A total of 341 communities throughout the United States participated.

At an unveiling of the study results Monday night, state Sen. Mike Woodard, who represents Durham in the General Assembly, proclaimed Durham “the cultural capital of North Carolina.” Woodard, the president of the Durham Arts Council Board of Trustees, and others offered numbers to back up the claim.

The Durham Arts Council coordinated data collection from 69 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. Sherry DeVries, executive director, noted Durham outperformed the national median and similar communities in arts industry spending, arts jobs, household income, and revenue to local and state governments.

Arts organizations in Durham spent $104.6 million in fiscal 2015, and audiences spent $49.5 million that year, the report stated. Spending by audiences includes meals, transportation and other expenses, but not the price of admission.

Those nonprofits also produced $6.9 million in revenue to local government, and $6.3 million in revenue to state government, the report stated. In Durham, the arts nonprofits supported 5,722 full-time jobs, and $132.5 million in household income,

The survey does not include the Durham Performing Arts Center and other for-profit arts venues.

Public spending

The city of Durham will spend $1.81 million on nonprofit arts and culture agencies in 2017-2018 in the budget approved Monday.

That figure accounts for management agreements the city pays annually to four organizations that present arts and cultural programs: the Carolina Theatre ($654,050), the Durham Arts Council ($685,715), Lyon Park Community Center ($186,721), and St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation Hayti Heritage Center ($292,000). The city owns the Carolina Theatre and the Durham Arts Council building.

The N.C. Arts Council also gives money to nonprofit arts groups through grants. In fiscal year 2017, the state agency gave Durham organizations $340,232. Of that amount, the Durham Arts Council received $76,482 for its arts programs and administration.

Other agencies keep data related to economic impact of different industries. The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, for example, reports that 9.7 million people visited Durham in 2015. Those visitors spent $831 million, created $47 million in tax revenue for local government, and produced 13,856 visitor-related jobs.

The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce keeps data on impact by industry cluster. For the years 2008-2013, the chamber reported $4.5 billion in “announced investment.” Of the different sectors, life sciences were 53 percent of that investment, and information technology and related businesses represented 23 percent. (The chamber is in the process of updating these numbers for more recent years.)

For the years 2008-2013, the chamber reported 16,835 jobs in several different sectors. The largest were life sciences (41 percent), information technology (13 percent), hospitality-retail-services (9 percent), financial services (14 percent), and electronics (10 percent).

My personal concern is not so much about downtown but about diversity and access.”

Renee Leverty, Cofounder of Pleiades Gallery

Downtown rents

The downside of more businesses locating downtown is that arts-related organizations, the catalyst for the growth, might be driven out.

The Carrack Modern Art, a nonprofit gallery, moved from Parrish Street to a space on East Main Street last year, in part from expectations that their rent would increase. In May, Pleiades Gallery on Chapel Hill Street became a nonprofit organization to help it be more sustainable.

“At Pleiades, we don’t know how long we will be able to stay downtown” because of rental rates, said Renee Leverty, cofounder. The gallery has an agreement with its landlord that is feasible for the next two years, she added.

“There may be an impact on what arts organizations may be based downtown because of the growth,” she said. The Americans for the Arts report reflects “how much value arts add to community and quality of life,” Leverty said. “My personal concern is not so much about downtown but about diversity and access,” she said. If arts groups have to locate in different parts of Durham, she hopes they will create a sense of community and serve more people.

In North Carolina overall, nonprofit arts groups spent $2.1 billion, supported 71,977 full-time jobs, produced $1.4 billion in household income, produced $94.5 million on local government revenue, and $106.9 million in state revenue, according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity study.

Nationally, nonprofit arts organizations generated $166.3 billion in direct spending. Nonprofit arts organizations nationally produced $96.07 billion in household income; $27.54 billion in revenue for local, state and federal governments; and supported $4.6 million full-time jobs.

Here is a brief look at study results from other participating local communities:

▪  Hillsborough: $5.5 million in nonprofit arts spending, 185 full-time jobs, $3.7 million in household income, $296,000 in local revenue, $327,000 in state revenue

▪  Carrboro: $7.7 million in nonprofit arts spending, 274 full-time jobs, $5.6 million in household income, $370,000 in local revenue, $439,000 in state revenue

▪  Chapel Hill: $117 million in nonprofit arts spending, 4,542 full-time jobs, $95.6 million in household income, $4.7 million in local revenue, $6.3 million in state revenue

▪  Orange County: $130.3 million in nonprofit arts spending, 5,001 full-time jobs, $105.1 million in household income, $5.3 million in local revenue, $7.1 million in state revenue

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

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