REGIONAL— The arts and culture don’t just enliven communities on the Iron Range, they provide a substantial economic impact as well. That is the finding of a new study commissioned by Minnesota …
REGIONAL— The arts and culture don’t just enliven communities on the Iron Range, they provide a substantial economic impact as well. That is the finding of a new study commissioned by Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, which concludes that arts and cultural organizations and their activities on the Range generate a total of $12.3 million in annual economic impact, confirming the connection between art, quality of life, and economic development. That figure does not include the impact of the arts in the Duluth area.
“This study shows the very definite economic impact of spending and taxes paid by full and part-time artists,” said Betty Firth, of Ely, who coordinates activities at the Ely Folk School, one of 57 arts and culture organizations in the region included in the study. “But there are also less easily-measured benefits,” Firth added. “The presence of artists and art opportunities attracts not only tourists seeking classes and locally-made art, but other artists who want to live in a community that supports the arts, so there is a domino effect.”
And as artists move to an area, they add to the economic impact through their personal spending. The study found that the 3,318 artists and creative workers living in northeastern Minnesota, spend a total of $14.7 million annually. The top three creative occupations in the region are photographers, musicians, and writers, the study found.
Firth said the growth of the arts is evident in a community like Ely, where local art is increasingly on sale and display across the city from restaurants to new galleries, to the Ely Art Walk, which continues through Sunday.
The arts are an increasing presence in Cook, as well, notes Shawna Kishel, president of North Woods Friends of the Arts. The organization has grown increasingly active in recent years, sponsoring weekly “music in the park” events near the downtown gazebo, hosting a popular Spring Arts Expo, offering regular art courses, and maintaining a gallery for local artists. Over 50 artists are now active with the group, displaying and teaching their art in various ways.
Across the Arrowhead, the impact of the arts is growing rapidly. “The figures for the seven counties served by the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council are startling,” said Firth. “The number of participating organizations doubled and income from the arts was $83.3 million in 2017, up from $39.7 million in 2015,” she said.
The burgeoning of the arts in the region has other less tangible effects on the area economy, by creating interest and excitement that makes communities more attractive even to those who just appreciate the arts. “For the non-artist, such as myself, it provides an opportunity to experience and enjoy the creativity of others as well as inspire me to use my own creativity,” said Kishel.
Firth agreed. “I met some friends for coffee and asked them what they thought about the impact of art in our community,” she said. “They thought that art gives a window into the minds of artists, showing various perspectives and perhaps leading to a greater understanding of different viewpoints. They felt having art available around us changes the aesthetics of our daily lives and having the opportunity to create art gives an outlet for learning and creativity that is life-enhancing.”
The arts also help to build a community’s connections and create new friendships, which further enhance quality of life and even the health of residents.
“Musical performances have been instrumental in bringing the community together,” said Kishel. The group’s wide range of summer arts classes are continuously connecting people with an interests in expanding their creative skills.
Firth said she sees much the same at the Ely Folk School. “Classes and other activities certainly help build community as people meet instructors and other students with similar interests,” she said. “Students often let me know they’re eager to return for future classes and that they’ll encourage others to come join in the fun, and word of mouth is the best marketing tool.”