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By Kevin Griffin Hickory Daily Record

HICKORY – Advocates of the arts in Catawba County are touting a study showing a substantial economic benefit to the area from nonprofits arts organizations.

Representatives of the United Arts Council of Catawba County came to the Hickory City Council on Tuesday night to present a study that showed Catawba County stands out for the way it benefits economically from the arts.

The study, conducted by Americans for the Arts, examined the economic impact of nonprofit arts organizations through surveys of both arts organizations and their patrons.

Participants for the study were the respondents to a nationwide request the group sent out in 2015. The study included data from 250 organizations in 341 communities across the country.

Overall, the report found the arts bring roughly $49.2 million to the county, with $12.6 million in direct spending by arts organizations and $36.7 million from audiences.

The total industry expenditures exceeded both the median expenditure in comparable regions and the national median, which were $31.4 million and $35.8 million, respectively.

In addition, the arts create the equivalent of 1,442 full-time jobs, provide $29.9 million in household income and contribute $4.2 million to state and local coffers.

While the overall amount of money spent by arts organizations was lower than in other places, the amount of audience spending was higher.

The median in comparable regions from audiences was $15.1 million, and the national median was $18.9 million.

Alan Jackson, who presented the findings to the council, described this as an indication of the efficiency of the local arts organizations.

“So really what we’re looking at is that these arts and cultural organizations in Catawba County are bringing large audiences to events, and having a greater impact on local and state government revenue while spending less money themselves as organizations to do so,” Jackson said.

The survey also dug into some demographic characteristics of arts patrons, including the differences between residents and nonresidents.

Catawba County residents who attended cultural events tended to be older, with just more than 63 percent of attendees surveyed being 55 or older.

Roughly 17 percent of the surveyed residents were 44 or younger.

The numbers were a bit more evenly split for nonresidents, with nearly 50 percent being 55 or older and about 33 percent being 44 or younger.

The data on wealth of attendees showed a similar split.

The largest group of Catawba County art patrons in terms of income was people earning $120,000 or more, who accounted for 29.5 of all resident patrons.

Residents earning less than $40,000 made up 9.3 percent of Catawba County arts patrons.

The income distribution for nonresidents was more even. Nonresident patrons earning $120,000 or more made up 23.7 percent of that group, while those earning less than $40,000 made up 11.5 percent of nonresident patrons earned $40,000 or less.

Council members responded positively to the data and expressed the hope more would be done to publicize the area’s cultural offerings.

“I mean, this is phenomenal that a town this size has this much to offer,” Councilman David Zagaroli said. “I think we have to toot our own horn as much as we can.”


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