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Report: Arts and culture contribute $306 million to Arkansas economy

This is the first year that two African-American dancers will star in The Washington Ballet's production of <em>Swan Lake</em>: Misty Copeland, soloist with American Ballet Theatre, dances the dual role of Odette and Odile; Brooklyn Mack of The Washington Ballet is Prince Siegfried.
Emily Jan
American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland dances in The Washington Ballet's production of Swan Lake in 2015.

A new study finds Arkansas’ arts and culture industry had a $306.4 million impact on the state’s economy in 2022 alone.

The nationwide study, called Arts & Economic Prosperity 6, was led by Americans for the Arts and studied 373 communities across 50 states and Puerto Rico. This marked the first year Arkansas participated in the report.

Karen Castleman is with the Northwest Arkansas-based nonprofit CACHE, which consulted on the study. Aside from economic impact, she said the study also asked audience members at in-person events their thoughts on the value of arts and culture.

“[The study] collected information about expenditures in addition to the ticket price, or the cost of the actual event, and also asking audience members questions about the social value, and the value of the activity itself on their quality of life,” she said.

Castleman says CACHE plans to host a series of workshops aimed at educating groups on how to best use the study’s data to secure new funding and expand their operations.

Mariah Hatta, executive director of Arkansans for the Arts, says the study paints a comprehensive picture of the nonprofit arts and culture sector’s ripple effect on the state economy.

“It’s not just you walking in that door, paying that admission price and walking out that door and it stops. It took money for you to get there, it took money for, if it’s a gallery, for those pieces to be produced and those pieces then to be hung on the wall,” she said.

Hatta says artists and nonprofits can point to the study’s results to justify their value to the state’s economy.

“If you’re talking about funding, people want to know the return on their investment; they want to know what they’re getting for their money, and how they can then justify it to the people or to the organizations giving them the money,” Hatta said. “It gives everyone authenticity in that. It’s only going to help, and it’s just a start.”

The study found arts and culture in Arkansas represented just over $202 million in spending by organizations and more than $104 million in event-related spending by audiences in 2022. Spending by organizations supported 3,225 jobs, generating roughly $33 million in local, state and federal government revenue.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.