Investing in the Arts

New study shows strength of arts and culture as economic drivers in Eugene

By Kelly Johnson

Eugene has a remarkable legacy of arts support, shaping the distinct and dynamic arts community we cherish today. Esteemed institutions like the Very Little Theatre and Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras, and iconic destinations like the Eugene Saturday Market and the Hult Center hold decades of cherished memories for our community members. 

Every day, our nonprofit arts and culture organizations are actively transforming their communities into better places to live and work, nurturing creativity, celebrating diversity and spreading joy. 

In a time when many government and private sector leaders may feel challenged to fund the arts, a new national study brings a welcome message: When you invest in the arts and culture, you are investing in an industry that strengthens your economy and builds more livable communities.


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Source: The Arts & Business Alliance of Eugene.

Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), a comprehensive study of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry conducted every five years, has recently unveiled truly impressive results. In 2022, Eugene’s arts and culture sector generated a remarkable $123.8 million in economic activity. This figure comprises spending by nonprofit organizations and the economic ripples created by people attending arts events. 

Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are more than creative entities; they operate as thriving businesses. They create jobs, engage local professionals like accountants and plumbers and actively support neighboring businesses by procuring goods and services. This financial infusion — $90.2 million dollars here in Eugene — ensures the sustainability of these vital institutions while acting as a driving force for broader economic growth within our community.

Furthermore, art events also catalyze economic activity through spending by attendees. When people attend a cultural event, they often make an outing of it — dining at a restaurant, paying for parking or public transportation, enjoying dessert after the show, and returning home to pay for child or pet care. Audience spending generated $33.6 million, underscoring the mutually beneficial relationship between the arts and local commerce. In all, this economic activity supports 2,714 local jobs.

Investment in the nonprofit arts and culture industry fosters communities where people want to live and work. It is where entrepreneurs and creative businesses are launched and where nighttime economies flourish. When we prioritize diverse cultural expressions and traditions, it nurtures social connections, promotes community pride and identity, and boosts tourism by providing authentic experiences that draw visitors to the community. If visitors have a positive experience, it may become a place to work — and ultimately one in which to live. Creating livable communities is economic development.

In Eugene, local arts and culture events drew nearly 150,000 visitors from outside Lane County. On average, excluding ticket prices, their spending on events exceeded that of local attendees by 187 percent ($68.73 to $23.92). Moreover, these events help keep discretionary spending close to home, with nearly 42 percent of local attendees admitting they would have traveled outside the area for a similar event.

AEP6 extends beyond economic and financial data to include social impact measurements that gauge arts and culture’s influence on community well-being. In Eugene, a striking 91 percent of attendees agreed that the activities or venues where they were surveyed inspired a profound sense of pride in their neighborhood or community.

The arts endured a severe blow from the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to recover slowly. Nevertheless, they played a crucial role in helping us heal socially and bounce back economically. The arts introduced joy during trying times, mitigated isolation and loneliness and boosted overall life satisfaction. They also reignited our local economy, encouraging people to venture out, engage and invest in the community.

AEP6 makes clear that when we fund the arts, we are not supporting a frill or an extra. Rather, we are investing in an industry — one that stimulates the economy, supports local jobs and contributes to building healthy and vibrant communities. Let’s continue building upon this legacy of arts support in Eugene, nurturing a creative environment that uplifts us all.

Kelly Johnson is executive director of the Arts & Business Alliance of Eugene. The full AEP6 study by Americans for the Arts and highlights are available on the Arts & Business Alliance of Eugene’s economic impact page Randy Cohen, vice president of Research of Americans for the Arts will speak about the AEP6 study and local data at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Summit Nov. 9 at Lane Community College.