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Olive Avenue Confidential: We've got to have arts

September 21, 2010|By Joe Piasecki

When council members voted earlier this month to convene a citizens' commission on the arts, I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering whether yet another city board or panel — Burbank already has two dozen of them — was really the answer to anything.

But after considering the mission of the coming Cultural Arts Commission and all the positive contributions it can make to this city, I realized it was pretty hokey that we've gone so long without one.

For a place that bills itself the Media Capital of the World, Burbank's done a pretty dismal job over the years of promoting and supporting its homegrown arts and culture scene.


This longstanding absence of vision amounts to a doubly wasted opportunity in that cultural endeavors contribute greatly to both the quality of life and economic growth of communities.

For anyone who's ever attended a concert or seen a play, the quality-of-life impacts are easy to understand.

What so often gets overlooked, though, are art's economic benefits.

Community planners have for years argued that cultural opportunities attract residents and businesses that help drive economic growth, a reality becoming all the more apparent in our increasingly information-driven society.

The national advocacy group Americans for the Arts takes the idea — and the evidence — a step further with their Arts & Economic Prosperity reports, which spell out in real numbers how nonprofit arts organizations fuel the economy by creating jobs, generating visitor spending and using local goods and services.

At the national level, the nonprofit arts industry has been generating annual economic activity in the range of $166 billion, according to the group, which takes into account the spending of both organizations and their patrons.

Both Pasadena, a leader in civic arts involvement, and neighboring Glendale have participated in localized Americans for the Arts surveys that point out the need for Burbank to maximize the success and visibility of our local arts scene.

In 2005, Glendale nonprofit arts groups generated $12 million in economic activity within the city, including $7 million in event-related expenditures above and beyond admission costs.

In Pasadena, where support for the arts is a city priority, nonprofit arts organizations generated $180 million, including $5.3 million in local government revenue — nearly twice Burbank's annual take from traffic fines and three times Burbank's yearly business tax revenue.

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