Arts and Culture Remains an Economic Driver

Guest Correspondence


One of the primary reasons so many people elect to make Sarasota County their home is the abundance of high quality arts and cultural amenities that are easily available to everyone. Very few communities of this size anywhere in the world can match the quantity and quality of cultural opportunities that are found here. It has been said that the arts are fundamental to our humanity. They enable and inspire us, fostering creativity, goodness and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion or age. 

Often overlooked is the fact that the arts are also a major economic driver. For example, if we look at the total employment numbers for Sarasota County, our non-profit arts and cultural institutions employee over 5,000 people in full time jobs. Taken as a whole, they are one of the largest employers in the County. These same organizations spend over

$180 million a year buying goods and services from other local businesses, their employees buy homes, buy groceries at the market and they pay taxes into our local government. When we expand our scope to look at the State of Florida, we see that there are over 88,000 full-time jobs in the arts. The total expenditures of arts and cultural organizations across the State exceed $3.2 billion and they generate over $415 million in State and local government revenue.

Unlike many for-profit businesses, these organizations are dependent upon earned income, philanthropy and grants to provide the fuel to drive their businesses. As our legislators prepare to return to Tallahassee in January, the Arts and Cultural Alliance encourages them to look at the arts as strong economic drivers that provide unusually high rates of return on the investments that are made in them. We encourage them to be leaders in supporting the Department of Cultural Affairs grants programs for arts and culture. These grants are vetted through a tried and proven process that ensures the fairness and effectiveness of the program. When fully funded, they bring a substantial investment to the arts and cultural organizations in Sarasota County and send a clear message that we understand that THE ARTS MEAN BUSINESS.

Jim Shirley is the executive director for the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County.

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