San Diego Arts Mean Business by Alison St John

San Diego Arts Mean Business by Alison St John

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A report completed this summer reveals arts and culture is a billion-dollar industry in San Diego.

The report, from Americans for the Arts, is part of a national study of more than 340 communities across the country. It shows nonprofit arts and culture organizations in the city of San Diego generate $1.1 billion a year in the local economy and create more than 35,000 jobs.

Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts rolled out the results during an Arts Economic Summit this week at the Escondido Center for the Arts. The North County Arts Network put on the summit in conjunction with the San Diego North Economic Development Council

The report shows about half the $1.1 billion in economic activity was money spent by nonprofit organizations on putting on arts and culture events, and paying artists and performers. People attending arts events spent the other half. Those surveyed spent an average of $45 dollars for each event they attended, on top of what they spent on a ticket.

The research revealed about a third of people who attend arts events are from out of town. Susan Bruinzeel is head of planning and research at the San Diego Tourism Authority, which helped conduct the study. She said a vibrant arts community is key to San Diego’s tourism industry, which is San Diego’s second biggest industry sector and contributes $289 million to city coffers in TOT taxes.

Cohen said creativity is now among the top five applied skills that business leaders are looking for because creativity feeds innovation which drives the global economy.

“In fact,” he said, “it’s leapfrogged ‘the three Rs’ of reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Cohen cited studies by the Conference Board, a nonprofit that conducts research to strengthen business performance. He said 72 percent of business leaders now say creativity is of high importance, and the two biggest indicators of creativity are starting your own business and studying the arts while in college.

John Eger, Zahn Professor of Creativity at SDSU moderated the summit. He said studies by Oxford University show that within the next 20 years about 40 percent of all jobs that exist today will be gone, due to new technology.

“They are just going to disappear,” he said. “The new jobs that haven’t been defined yet are going to require people with new thinking skills who understand the power of the arts, broadly defined.”

The North County Arts Network formed two years ago to strengthen the arts in North County and the San Diego region. The City of San Diego Arts and Culture Commission sponsored the study, which was also presented at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park on Wednesday.

San Diego Arts Means Business KPBS by Alison St John