Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

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Bloomington, IN 47408
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HT: study shows return on investment in performing arts

Jenny Porter Tilley | HT Reporter

August 15, 2019

When area residents spend an evening in downtown Bloomington attending a theater performance, they’re spending more than just the price of their tickets.


Dinner, parking, child care and new clothes are among the other costs people might encounter as a result of buying that ticket, generating millions of dollars annually for the city and Monroe County.


A study prepared by a capstone class at the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs for Cardinal Stage outlines the economic impact of the performance arts sector in the county. According to the report, for every ticket sold to a performing arts event, audiences spend $32.19 on average on other goods and services in Bloomington.


Cardinal Stage’s study comes the heels of the city’s Community Survey results, which broadly discussed residents’ high appreciation for art and culture opportunities. Managing director Gabe Gloden said these new findings expand on that information to highlight the arts as a reason people want to live and work in Bloomington.


“While the performing arts is a small sector of the local economy, it’s one that is vastly growing — and it’s growing at a faster rate than other communities our size,” he said. “We as arts organizations have to start making a non-charitable case for support to people who might not care about the inherent cultural value of the performing arts.”


That means putting this information in front of business owners, Gloden said, and showing the return on investment. “It’s money we’re keeping in the community that’s being directed back into the local economy because of investment in the arts.”


Although the study primarily examined the impact of three performing arts providers — Cardinal Stage, Buskirk-Chumley Theater and Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center — it also included a survey of 450 adults in south-central Indiana in 2019. Respondents were asked about what performance venues they have been to (including smaller theater organizations, Indiana University Auditorium and IU Opera), as well as which organizations they donate to annually.


Kate Galvin, artistic director for Cardinal Stage, said one goal of the report is to get the word out about the value of all local performing arts opportunities, “so people understand that it isn’t just a value added to the community; it’s an economic driver.”


So when someone has a ticket to a theater performance at the Waldron at 7:30 p.m., for example, they might eat dinner nearby beforehand. They might get a drink during the show, or grab a coffee afterward. They might have to pay for parking.


“That’s crystal clear,” Galvin said of the dollars spent on items surrounding a performing arts experience.


Researchers looked at the economic contribution of Cardinal Stage, Buskirk-Chumley Theater and Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in terms of their offerings, jobs supported, community partners, volunteer hours, tickets sold and other factors. They calculated a direct economic effect (direct spending into the economy); indirect economic effect (money from the initial expenditure that is re-spent within the economy by other businesses); and induced effect (money re-spent within the economy by paid employees of the organization).


Combined, the three organizations accounted for a $4.6 million total economic impact, supporting 161 jobs in the community.


With other ongoing community concerns, including affordable housing and construction, arts can get lost in the conversation, Gloden said.


“Our local economy feeds itself, and the performing arts are no exception to that,” he said. They’re also important to the city’s residents — in the survey, 98% of respondents agreed that performing arts add value to the community, and 85% believe arts should receive funding from local government.


The complete report, with information about its methodology, can be found at here.