$35-per-person tax could be placed on November ballot

A new study on the economic impact of non-profit arts organizations was released as the City Council prepared to consider placing a measure on the November ballot to impose to $35-per-person tax on Portlanders to fund arts education and programs.

The study found that the regional nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $253 million in annual economic activity. It also revealed that is supports 8,529 regional jobs and returns $21 million in revenue to state, regional and local governments.

The study, titled Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, was released Friday. It is a national economic impact study conducted in 182 communities nationwide by Americans for the Arts, with local support from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) and Business for Culture and the Arts (BCA).

The study was released shortly after the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) revealed it would ask the council to place a measure on the November ballot to impose a $35-per-person tax on resident to help fund art and music teacher in Portland elementary schools. Lower-income people would be exempt.

CAN officials estimate the measure will raise $12 million a year. It would also fund grants to such organizations as the Oregon Symphony, Portland Center Stage and the Portland Opera. RACC would distribute additional grants to groups to improve access to the arts for youths and members of underserved communities.

At least two other funding also appear to be headed to the November ballot. The Multnomah County Commission is considering asking votes to create a library district, and the Portland School Board is looking at a bond measure to repair and renovate a number of the district's aging schools.

According to the study, the nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties spent $152 million during fiscal year 2010. The spending included employee pay, supply purchases, contracts for services and the acquisition assets within their communities.

The industry also leverages more than $101 million in event-related spending by its audiences attending a cultural event, the study found, including meals in local restaurants, payments for parking, the purchase of gifts and souvenirs, and payments to babysitters. All combined, these dollars support 8,529 full-time equivalent jobs, generate $195 million in household income for local residents, and $21 million in local and state government revenues, the study found.

'Arts organizations add tremendous value to our community, but it's not always something we can quantify,' said Eloise Damrosch, executive director of RACC. 'We know that the arts have the power to inspire us and provoke us, delight and engage us. They foster creativity in the classroom and stimulate innovation in our workplaces. But now we see exactly how much arts and culture organizations contribute to the local economy - and it's significant.'

Deborah Edward, executive director of BCA, added that arts organizations are important local businesses, too.

'They hire employees and purchase goods and services in our community,' said Edward. 'They also anchor tourism and our after-work lives, supporting local restaurants, retailers, and hotels. Culture inspires commerce and our economy is all the better because of this dynamic. Plainly, the arts are good for business.'

The study found the total attendance at arts and culture events in 2010 was 4.6 million, and that 16.3 percent of these were visitors from out of town. Nearly 70 percent of all visitors say that the primary reason for their trip is 'specifically to attend this arts/culture event,' and visitors who stay overnight in a local hotel spend an average of $154.79 per person as a direct result of their attendance.

The Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study was conducted by Americans for the Arts and supported by The Ruth Lilly Fund of Americans for the Arts. RACC, BCA, and the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) contributed time and other support, including the collection of local data. The full text of the local report is available at

Nationally, the study reveals that the nonprofit arts industry produced $135.2 billion in economic activity during 2010. This spending - $61.1 billion by nonprofit arts and culture organizations plus an additional $74.1 billion by their audiences - supported 4.1 million full-time equivalent jobs and generated $22.3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues. The national report is available at

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