Study shows economic impacts of Buncombe arts and culture organizations

PLAY TIME: N.C. Stage Company produces six professional productions and hosts about five nonprofessional theater companies every year. The nonprofit sells upward of 3,000 tickets per production.
BIG TIME THEATER IN A SMALL TOWN: North Carolina Stage Company, one of the crown jewels of Asheville's nonprofit theatre scene, was a participant in the study released in 2012. Some of those surveyed for the study may have watched the production of Angels in America pictured here. Photo courtesy of N.C. Stage Company

Asheville was recently listed by Top Value Reviews as No. 9 on its list of “30 Great Small Towns for Theater Lovers.” The online site singled out the strength of the plays put on by N.C. Stage Company and The Foundation Performing Arts in Spindale, as well as other performance efforts from Lex 18 Themed Dinners and the Brevard Summer Music Festival.

Such offerings, often provided by area nonprofits, have large economic impacts on the community.

To prove this, Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit advancing the cause of arts organizations, published studies on the economic impact of arts organizations in 182 areas all over the county in 2012. One of the economic microclimates the organization chose to look at was Buncombe County. At that time, the study found 189 total eligible nonprofit arts and culture organizations, as identified by the city of Asheville Cultural Arts Division. Thirty-four of those groups participated in the study.

The study looked at institutional data from the 2010 fiscal year, along with 1,061 audience-member surveys collected in 2011 at nonprofit arts and culture performances, events and exhibitions.

The study found that industry expenditures in Buncombe County totaled nearly $44 million. That spending supported the full-time equivalent of 1,427 jobs, 550 of which were provided by arts and culture organizations. Arts activities also generated about $4.7 million in state and local government revenue.

Nonresidents showed their appreciation for Asheville’s arts scene, as well. According to the study, 321,726 nonresident attendees spent an average of $63.96 each that year on food, transportation, lodging, gifts and other things — excluding admission costs.

The study also revealed local love for the strong community of arts nonprofits. A range of resident attendees were surveyed at a range of free and paid events to determine that about 455,390 visits by residents included average outlays of $13.71 per visit, over and above the price of admission, mostly on meals and refreshments.

About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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