Musicians in Balboa Park
Musicians in Balboa Park. Courtesy Americans for the Arts

San Diego’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates over $1 billion in annual economic activity and creates thousands of local jobs, according to a study released Wednesday.

The study conducted by Americans for the Arts, a Washington, DC-based organization, found that San Diego arts and culture nonprofits directly spent $554 million in the 2015 federal fiscal year. In addition, audiences attending arts and cultural events spent another $546 million or hotels, restaurants, parking and other local services.

The combined $1.1 billion economic impact supported nearly 36,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

“The arts are a powerful force not only for enriching the lives of citizens in a community, but as a driver of economic activity,” said Janet K. Poutré, chair of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. “Even the smallest dance company employs dancers, administrators and stagehands. Tourists visiting to attend arts and cultural events spend on hotels and restaurants. A city with a vibrant arts scene will always enjoy a vibrant economy as well.”

This study concludes that it is “a misconception that communities support arts and culture at the expense of local economic development.”

In June, the City of San Diego announced over $11 million in awarded contracts to 133 arts nonprofits through Commission for Arts and Culture funding programs.

“This study demonstrates that the arts are an economic and employment powerhouse both locally and across the nation,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive and helps local communities become stronger and healthier places to live. Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.