Michigan’s Hidden Economic Jewel: Creative Arts and Culture

What is cultural economics?

It is defined as the branch of economics that studies the relation of culture to economic outcomes. Culture, in this sense, includes our political systems, religious beliefs, history, customs, arts, sciences and education.

Arts administrators across the state have known anecdotally that Michigan’s arts and cultural nonprofit organizations have a tremendous impact on the state’s economy—but not until now have art advocates had the reliable and comprehensive data needed to back it up.

ArtServe Michigan is the statewide nonprofit organization leading advocacy for the arts, culture and arts education, and the transformative power of the creative industries in Michigan.

In January 2012, ArtServe Michigan released a new report, titled Creative State Michigan. The report details the impact Michigan’s arts and cultural nonprofit organizations have on the state’s economy. Compiling fiscal year 2009 data, the report details findings from 211 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, representing an estimated 10 percent of the sector.

“Here in Michigan, we have lacked an annual, consistent source of data … particularly as the economy has tightened, it’s been even more critical for us to [have] the data to build a case for support,” says ArtServe President and CEO Jennifer Goulet.

According to the Creative State Michigan report, the 211 participating organizations contributed nearly half a billion dollars ($462,791,322) in direct expenditures to the economy of Michigan in 2009. Further, it finds that for every $1 invested by the state, the arts and culture nonprofit sector contributed $51 into the Michigan economy.

“We didn’t expect the return to be as much as it was,” says Jennifer Hill, director of special projects for ArtServe.

Highlights of the report (211 arts nonprofit organizations from FY 2009):

• There were 15, 560 arts and cultural sector jobs, equaling  $152,000,000 in salaries

• 12,667,492 people made visits to arts and cultural venues and events, of which 52 percent were free

• 1,841,368 school children experienced arts and cultural events, inclusive of 25,259 youth and school group visits

In addition to the Creative State Michigan report data, analysis resulting from the Pure Michigan marketing campaign found the state’s arts and cultural sectors generated more than 2 billion in tourism—this represents 17 percent of the $12.6 billion in tourism dollars spent in 2010.

On the local home front, the Greater Lansing Arts Council is working strategically to take advantage of the economic arts and cultural assets in the area.

As a result of several months of in-depth analysis of the cultural offerings in the region, ArtWorks: Creative Invention / Reinvention, A Collaborative Cultural Economic Development Plan for Greater Lansing’s Urban Center was launched in October of 2009.

Also known as the CED, this 10-year plan is aimed to grow creative enterprise, attract and retain talent, and enhance the value of place through the arts. The CED explores arts and culture as a way to help improve the mid-Michigan economy, as well as make the region a more attractive place for creative enterprise.

Lansing is the home to several creative service companies ranging from communications and graphic design to marketing and advocacy and much more. While many of these companies are scattered throughout the city, the vast majority can be found in Old Town, the original downtown of Lansing.

Old Town is a hip, creative community with historic buildings, vibrant festivals, galleries and boutiques.  While at night Lansing’s Old Town is a thriving cultural destination, the daytime is a serious professional environment that is home to some of the most influential creative minds in the state.

For over 20 years, MessageMakers president Terry Terry has served as a catalytic force behind the renaissance of the Old Town. MessageMakers is a founding sponsor of Old Town’s festivals, including the Lansing JazzFest, Old Town BluesFest and Michigan Mosaic Music Festival.

Terry attributes the present-day cultural economic successes evident in Old Town and the Greater Lansing area to the perseverance and support of local artists and arts organizations.

“ It really was a small group of artists who came together and started in doing things together in Old Town, before it was even called Old Town. It was a ghost town when we first got together. It did not happen overnight; it took a lot of work,” says Terry.

Dichondra R. Johnson is the director for community education with Lansing Community College. In addition, Johnson is an adjunct faculty member in the college’s business and economics department. She is an active supporter of arts and culture, talent retention, youth, education, tourism, diversity and cultural economic development throughout the state of Michigan. Johnson can be reached via e-mail at johnsd66@lcc.edu.








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