More than Just a Pretty Picture

Arts and Culture Contribute to Economic Prosperity

by Neil Levine


Arts and cultural offerings in Brevard County offer an astonishing breadth of wonderful experiences for both residents and visitors.  These experiences range from excellent art shows to great theatre events; from a highly commended zoo to symphony orchestras; from a Warbirds museum to a nationally noted birding festival; and everything in between.  Brevard County, on Florida’s Space Coast, offers the vibrant diversity you might expect from many larger cities.


Across the country, arts and cultural organizations like Brevard Cultural Alliance (BCA), a nonprofit organization, act as economic drivers to fuel a billion-dollar industry that supports jobs, generates tax revenues and fuels tourism.  While we have long known how important the support of arts is to Brevard County, we now have a baseline for comparison which quantifies the importance this industry plays in our overall economic well-being.


“Americans for the Arts,” the national organization charged with advancing arts and arts education, recently completed a large-scale study, The Arts & Economic Prosperity, in which they document the key role played by the arts and culture industry.  This fourth study from the group looked at 182 communities across the United States and analyzed each to determine specific and reliable economic impact data by several key measurements:


–          Full-time equivalent jobs

–          Household income

–          Local/state government revenue


Brevard County was included in the Central Florida Region report, linked together with Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties.  BCA, along with organizations such as Brevard Zoo, King Center for the Performing Arts, Melbourne Art Festival, Brevard Symphony Orchestra, and others each provided past data to provide a baseline upon which survey organizers can build.  The results were calculated from 2010 data.


According to study findings:

–          $264 million is generated annually from the Central Florida arts community

–          9,000 full-time equivalent jobs are supported by arts and cultural groups in Central Florida

–          $36 million is added in state and local revenue

–          $22 per resident and $63 per visitor is added through event-related spending


Also of interesting note, nationally, the arts and cultural community:

–          generates $1.35 billion in revenue

–          supports 4.1 million full-time equivalent jobs

–          adds $22.3 billion in federal, state and tax dollars


Closer to home, BCA has commissioned an annual economic impact study to gauge the impact that arts and culture have directly on Brevard County.  We’re currently working with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast on an updated version that will be released to the public soon.  Findings from our previous study showed impressive results to the tune of $42.2 million in revenue generation and almost 625 full and part-time jobs.


We recognize that arts and culture’s major contribution can’t be measured solely in financial terms, but also by the human element that comes from the arts – such as the sense of magic when the stage curtains are drawn, the nostalgia experienced when listening to a familiar tune, or the heart rate increase you experience while watching an artist bring an image to life.  We know that the arts can be scintillating, inspirational and thought provoking – and truth, beauty and a sense of the sublime can’t be defined in terms of numbers.  However, an annual economic impact study is critical to illustrate that not only do arts and culture give us quality of life, they make a significant contribution to the financial bottom line.  It really is a simple message: “When you support the arts in Brevard, you’re contributing to both the economic and social well-being of our community.”


Neil Levine, executive director, Brevard Cultural Alliance

Neil Levine is executive director of the Brevard Cultural Alliance, a partner of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.