Arts spending brings in the bucks for the Creative City

For the first time, a new study led by RMIT University and the City of Melbourne has quantified the economic and social impact of investment in the arts.

Arts are an essential part of Melbourne’s national and international profile as a creative city, and significantly contributes to its widespread reputation as Australia’s arts capital.

The study, The Economic Impact of the City of Melbourne’s Investment in the Arts interviewed more than 1000 people, including artists, audience members who attended Council-run arts events, and the public, to determine the economic value of Council’s investment in arts programs.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle AC said the research highlighted the impact of Council’s role in supporting the arts, which contribute greatly to Melbourne’s well established reputation as a leading creative city.

“This research confirms what we already knew anecdotally: Melburnians believe the arts are intrinsic to Melbourne’s identity and the arts sector relies on the City of Melbourne’s ongoing financial support,” he said.

“Council takes its role as supporter of the arts seriously: that is why we are investing $18.3 million in arts and culture programs in 2017-18, which will strengthen our reputation as Australia’s arts capital.

“The arts also have a positive impact on our economy: Victorians spend $5.1 billion annually directly on cultural activities and our creative industries contribute $23 billion a year to Victoria, with almost three-quarters of the state’s population living in Melbourne.”

Dr Meg Elkins, lead researcher at the RMIT School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, said the comprehensive survey of artists, audiences and the general public provided a unique perspective on the true worth of the City of Melbourne’s arts programs to a broad range of people.

“Our challenge as researchers was to put a dollar figure on the tangible and intangible value of the City of Melbourne’s arts programs”, Elkins said.

“Positively we found that every $1of spending on City of Melbourne arts activities generates around 70 cents of new economic activity to benefit the local community.

“Seventy per cent of audience respondents said their main reason to visit Melbourne that day was to attend the arts event.

“People who did not attend the City’s events and activities in the past year still placed a high value on preserving the ability for future generations to enjoy the City’s arts programs.”

Key findings from the audience survey showed that the typical attendee spent approximately $27 per event on top of any admission cost and were also willing to pay $37 on average annually to support the City of Melbourne’s arts programs.

Report co-author, Associate Professor Ashton de Silva from the RMIT School of Economics, Finance and Marketing and Centre for Urban Research said the study also found that arts funding is critical in creating new projects, enhancing artists’ profiles and generating additional work.

“We found that 70 percent of artists that have benefited from Council funding were able to collaborate with other artists and 58 percent of commissioned artists were able to expand their professional contacts and network,” he said.

“A further 65 percent of grant recipients went on to receive other paid artistic work.

“Aside from economic benefits, the importance of intangible benefits from the arts cannot be ignored – the ability of the arts to enhance social and cultural life for those who encounter them improves the lives of Melbourne residents, workers and visitors.”

Story: Duong Tran