Column: Investing in the arts pays off in many ways


Commentary by Jeffrey McDermott

Carmel’s investment in the arts has been significant, and for good reason: It pays.

Some of the intangible benefits of arts investment are obvious – wonderful entertainment options, beautiful venues and growth in community pride. Other intangible returns may be less apparent but no less real.

Studies consistently show that children who are involved in the arts perform better on standardized testing; enjoy greater self-esteem, enhanced creativity and higher graduation rates; and are more likely to attend and be successful in college. Elderly citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia benefit greatly from music therapy. Participation as an artist, patron or student promotes community cohesion and personal psychological well-being. “Arts communities” are more inclusive and diverse in nearly every way.

But what about the more tangible benefits of the arts? Research shows that arts investment simply makes financial sense. A 2017 study by Americans for the Arts revealed that the nonprofit arts industry in Carmel generated more than $19.5 million in annual economic activity, including more than $12.5 million spent by our various arts organizations and an additional $7 million in event-related spending by audiences.

Arts organizations in Carmel support the equivalent of 653 full-time jobs, generating $11.6 million in household income and $1.9 million in local and state tax revenue. The average person attending an arts-related event in Carmel will spend $26.39 beyond the price of admission on meals and other goods and services. A non-Carmel resident spends even more – $42.26 on top of the ticket expense. Indeed, 62.9 percent of non-resident attendees come to Carmel specifically to attend a particular arts or cultural event, filling our hotels, restaurants and shops during their visits.

The Center for the Performing Arts is indeed at the center of these intangible and tangible benefits. We recently welcomed the 1 millionth guest to our campus since its opening. Attendance at performances this past year rose 40 percent, with first-time visitors accounting for 37.5 percent of the total. We are proud to have had patrons from all 92 Indiana counties, all 50 states and 23 nations. Our arts education programs, which offer learning and experiential opportunities across generations, are growing in size and popularity.

So, why do we invest in the arts? The better question to ask is, “Why wouldn’t we?”

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