Arts nonprofits generated over $51 million for the local economy in 2022

Press release from ArtsAVL:

Buncombe County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $51 million in economic activity in 2022, according to the newly released Arts & Economic Prosperity 6, an economic and social impact study conducted by Americans for the Arts in partnership with ArtsAVL. The study demonstrates locally, as well as nationally, arts and culture are a critical economic driver of vibrant communities.

Arts & Economic Prosperity 6, or AEP6, is an economic and social impact study of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry. This report documents the economic and social contributions of arts and culture in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Building on its 30-year legacy as the largest and most inclusive study of its kind, AEP6 uses a rigorous methodology to document the economic and social contributions of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry. 373 study partners collected expenditure and attendance data from over 16,000 arts and culture organizations and the event-related spending information from nearly 225,000 of their attendees.

Nationally, the AEP6 study reveals that America’s nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $151.7 billion industry – one that supports 2.6 million jobs and generates $29.1 billion in government revenue.

“Arts and culture organizations have a powerful ability to attract and hold dollars in the community longer. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from nearby businesses, and produce the authentic cultural experiences that are magnets for visitors, tourists, and new residents,” said Nolen V. Bivens, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “When we invest in nonprofit arts and culture, we strengthen our economy and build more livable communities.”

Statewide, North Carolina’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $2.23 billion in economic activity in 2022, representing 5% growth in overall economic impact since 2015 compared to a nationwide decrease of 7%. “The arts not only bring enjoyment and better quality of life, they bring a real boost to our economy,” said Governor Roy Cooper.

Buncombe County, however, saw a drastic decline of 26% since the last report was conducted in 2015. According to this report, in 2022, nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences generated over $51 million in economic activity in Buncombe County – $25 million in spending by the organizations, which leveraged an additional $26 million in event-related spending by their audiences. This economic activity supported over 1,200 jobs and generated nearly $13 million in tax revenue.

As the local research partner for Asheville and Buncombe County, ArtsAVL spent over a year collecting over 1,400 audience surveys for this report, and 62 local arts nonprofits completed the organizational survey.

“It is important to remember that the AEP6 was conducted in fiscal year 2022 as the nation continued its emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ArtsAVL Executive Director Katie Cornell. “By every measure, the arts and culture industry was among the most devastated economic sectors, and this report really highlights the major impact it had on Buncombe County’s arts nonprofits.”

The main driver of this decline was a decrease in the number of nonlocal attendees by over 50%. Cornell states, “More than other areas for the state, Buncombe County’s creative economy depends heavily on tourism, and during the study period there was likely still anxiety about traveling to attend events, especially indoors.”

Even with this decline, the findings demonstrate the substantial impact that Buncombe County’s arts and culture nonprofits make on the local economy– both in direct and indirect spending. Additionally, ArtsAVL’s Buncombe County Creative Economy Snapshot from May 2023 showed that audiences are returning. According to Wortham Center for the Performing Arts Managing Director Rae Geoffrey, “Wortham Center welcomed 45,000 patrons during the 22/23 season.” She goes on to say that, “while we are not yet back to pre-pandemic levels, this is encouraging.”

More about the Buncombe County report can be found at

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