Arts & Economic Prosperity Study

Americans for the Arts, national findings


Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 is here! The City of Columbia was one of 341 communities across the country to participate in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 national economic impact study, conducted by Americans for the Arts.  On this page, read Columbia’s full report and learn more about the impact of the arts on Columbia’s local economy. 

City of Columbia Reports

downtown crowd    summary of financial information
   Download full reportopens PDF file                             Download one-page summary sheetopens PDF file  



In communities coast-to-coast, from our smallest towns to our largest cities, America’s 100,000 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations make their community more desirable places to live and work every day of the year. The arts provide inspiration and joy to residents, beautify public spaces, and strengthen the social fabric of our communities. Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are also businesses. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from local businesses, make communities more vibrant, and attract tourists. Event-related spending by arts audiences generates valuable revenue for local merchants such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and parking garages.


Columbia’s Study Highlights

Locally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $14.7 million in economic activity during 2015 – $9.2 million in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $5.6 million in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 659 jobs and generated $1.3 million in local and state government revenues. By every measure, the results are impressive.




Economic Impact of Spending by Organizations

Arts and cultural organizations are valued members of the business community. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from within the community, are members of the Chamber of Commerce, and promote the region. In 2015, Columbia’s organizations – performing and visual arts organizations, festivals, city art programs, and more – pumped an estimated $9.2 million into the local economy, supporting 483 jobs, providing $7.25 million in household income, and generating $717,000 in local and state government revenue.


Economic Impact of Event-Related Audience Spending

The arts, unlike most industries, leverage significant amounts of event-related spending by their audiences. For example, part of the arts experience may include dining out, paying for parking, shopping in local retail stores, enjoying dessert after the show, and returning home to pay the babysitter. Based on the 829 audience-intercept surveys conducted in Columbia for this study, the typical arts attendee spends $16.57 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission. This spending supported 176 jobs, providing $3.5 million in household income, and generated $567,000 in local and state government revenue.

average person spending

When a community attracts nonlocal arts attendees and cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards. In addition to spending data, we asked each of the 829 survey respondents to provide their home zip code. Attendees that living within Boone County were considered local; those who lived outside Boone County were categorized as nonlocal. Our sample revealed that 18.7 percent of attendees traveled from outside of the county (nonlocal), and 81.3 percent of attendees resided within the county (local). Nonlocal attendees spend twice as much per person as their local counterparts as a result of attending an arts event ($28.40 vs. $13.85).

graph of audience local v. non-local  event related spending local v non-local

Nonlocal attendees were asked about the purpose of their visit. 83.2 percent indicated that the primary purpose of their visit was “specifically to attend this arts event,” demonstrating the power of the arts to attract visitors to the community. As part of the survey, local attendees were asked about what they would have done if the arts event that they were attending was not taking place: 49.3 percent said they would have “traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event.” If Columbia fails to provide a variety of artistic and cultural experiences, not only will it fail to attract new dollars from cultural tourists, it will also lose the discretionary spending of its own residents who will travel elsewhere for a similar arts experience.



This study puts to rest a misconception that communities support arts and culture at the expense of local economic development. In fact, Columbia is investing in an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism. Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 shows conclusively that the arts mean business.


About the Study

The most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted in the United States, Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 was conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. The Columbia study received additional support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.Americans for the Arts’ local, regional, and statewide project partners contributed both time and financial support to the study. Financial information from organizations was collected in partnership with DataArts™. View a full list of the communities who participated in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study.