According to a study by the national organization Americans for the Arts, Santa Barbara is a top economic player in the arts realm with local arts programs and audiences spending $46 million more than similar programs in comparable cities nationwide.
The study examined contributions to artistic and cultural nonprofit groups in 182 communities nationwide to find which areas received the highest and lowest levels of funding and found that arts organizations and audiences in Santa Barbara spent a total of $124 million in 2010. When combined with donations, the total economic impact of this spending surpassed the national average of similar cities — urban areas with populations between 250,000 and 500,000 — by roughly $75 million.
UCSB art professor Laurel Beckman said local demographics play an important role in these donations as affluent supporters have both the means and often the desire to support the city’s culture.
“My take on the community is that, fundamentally, it is pretty conservative in the nature of the art,” Beckman said. “It comes from wealthy people that have more leisure time than other people do. But it is also a community that prides itself on being creative.”
According to the study, the city’s arts industry sponsors 3,587 full-time jobs and provides $78.5 million to local household incomes while also generating $11.7 million in revenue for both the city and the state. The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission presented the results last Thursday at Lobero Theatre, where Mayor Helene Schneider declared October “Arts and Humanities Month” and Americans for the Arts Vice President of Research and Policy Randy Cohen held a Q&A session regarding the new findings.
According to Kathy Janega-Dykes, CEO and president of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors and Film Bureau, Santa Barbara’s investment in the arts also enables it to continue to draw visitors.
“Arts and culture is part of our messaging because we know tourists travel to Santa Barbara to experience arts and culture activities,” Janega-Dykes said. “Most recently, we conducted a visitor profile study and preliminary statistics show that 55 percent of hotel guests and 73 percent of day-trippers went to an arts and cultural institution between June and August of this year.”
According to Cohen, Santa Barbara county residents spend an average of $21.17 per event — not including admission — while out-of-town attendees spend an average of $41.41.
While the high level of funding appears to benefit all of the Santa Barbara arts community, Manny Lopez, director of Gallery 113 downtown, said the support sometimes benefits only a small portion of the city’s art community and does not necessarily reach private arts businesses like his.
“Being a participant in the gallery, we can always use more money,” Lopez said. “In terms of Gallery 113, it would always be nice to have that.”
Beckman said organizations receiving such funds should still strive to ensure that individual artists and supporting businesses still gain access to these funds.
“Be mindful of the individuals that actually create the art. People should support the creators and not just the production,” Beckman said. “Split it up; share the love.”