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Arts, cultural groups bring millions of dollars to MetroWest, study says

Posted by Leslie Anderson  April 11, 2013 10:57 AM

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Museums, theaters, and art schools are bringing more than just culture and entertainment to the communities west of Boston. According to a newly released study, arts and cultural organizations are providing millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to the region.

The MetroWest Visitors Bureau commissioned the study to quantify the economic impact of 21 arts and cultural organizations that are members of the bureau, according to spokeswoman Julie Dennehy.

According to the study, conducted by Carlisle Consulting of Concord, the 21 organizations have an economic impact ranging between $24 million in 2012 to a projected $29 million in 2016, totaling almost $375 million during the five-year span.

The 21 groups surveyed employed the equivalent of 528 full-time staff members in 2012. That number was expected to increase to 594 in 2016.

"These survey results were not surprising at all; in fact, they simply validated our knowledge of how important the arts and cultural organizations are to our region," said Susan Nicholl, executive director of the bureau.

Nicholl said the findings mean that arts and cultural organizations contribute in a meaningful, quantifiable way to the region's overall economic health.

“The MetroWest is rich in arts and cultural organizations that inspire, involve and connect us,” said Marilyn Martino, executive director of the Sudbury Foundation, which sponsored the economic impact study. “This study demonstrates how these agencies create jobs and contribute to the region’s economy. It’s important that we recognize this, and support this vibrant element of our region.”

According to the bureau, the study indicates that money spent by a creative organization — including operations, attendance from visitors from outside the MetroWest region, employees, endowments, and investments—spreads into the community. That creates a ripple effect that contributes to the region's total economy.

For example, an institution such as a museum draws thousands of different visitors from outside the region every year who often patronize other businesses, such as local restaurants.

Carlisle Consulting also estimated the impact on employment due to the indirect ripple effect on industries such as hotels, restaurants, and livery services, in combination with direct employment by the 21 groups. Carlisle estimated an average equivalent of 793 full-time jobs between 2012 and 2016.

Dennehy said she believed that the economic impact of cultural organizations may be even greater, since there were many organizations that didn't participate in the survey because they didn't fit the study's model.

Nicholl agreed: "This is really just a slice," she said. "We can only imagine what the impact is overall."

Participants in the study included: Amazing Things Arts Center, The Center for Arts in Natick, Commonwealth Ballet, Concord Museum, Danforth Museum of Art, The Discovery Museums, Five Crows, Fountain Street Fine Art, Framingham History Center, Franklin Performing Arts Company, Franklin School for the Performing Arts, Hopkinton Center for the Arts, Mass Audubon, Museum of Russian Icons, Natick Center Associates, Natick Historical Society, New England Wildflower Society, Palettes, Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, and The Wayside Inn.

John Swinconeck can be reached at johnswinc@gmail.com.

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