Introduction By Joshua Russell, Communications Manager, Arts Council Silicon Valley


Bruce Davis, Executive Director of the Arts Council Silicon Valley

Summer 2007

The comments below, by Bruce Davis, Executive Director of the Arts Council Silicon Valley, are in reference to a recently released study that highlights the economic benefit of the arts in Santa Clara County. This study was almost a year and a half in the making from research and planning to printing and distribution.

As you review some of the highlights of the study, I want to give you some things to think about. First of all, why is this information important? It is important because we have been making the case for a long time as to the intrinsic value the arts provide — how they promote creativity, fuel our souls and make a complete community. Well, now we can argue that in addition to all of those, the arts help generate jobs, local and state tax revenue, provide business to local vendors and eateries, and generate a lot of money in this region. As you read this, consider the important role you are playing in drawing arts patrons to this region, in spending money locally on supplies and even in attending local exhibitions, performances and festivals.


Vewers seriously examine the art on exhibit at Santa Clara University’s de Saisset Museum

Another question you might ask is what to do with this information? First keep in mind that this is not the “silver bullet” solution but rather another tool to use in our collective tool belts as we communicate the value of the arts here to local elected officials, funders and even on a state or federal level. By speaking the same language in a more unified voice, we can hammer home the key messages over and over again until they stick. The Arts Council is presenting this information to as many artists and arts organizations as possible and even encouraging the dissemination to their Boards of Directors. The more everyone knows, the more informed and effective we will all be.

Finally, you might be asking what can I do? Well, you can visit the Arts Council’s website at and read through the full study. You can request a printed copy by emailing or if you would like a member of the Arts Council to make a presentation, we would be happy to do so. You can forward the story below to arts supporters you know and talk about the economic benefit of the arts to funders and elected officials you come into contact with. The arts are indeed an investment that pays back many times over.


Bruce Davis tells an important story

The Arts Mean Business in Santa Clara County
By Bruce W. Davis, Executive Director, Arts Council Silicon Valley

I am sure that many of you are familiar with Oliver Twist – you know, the little boy who learns to pick a pocket or two. And of course, who can forget what made him famous -”please sir, may I have some more?”

To many people, the arts are seen as an Oliver Twist…a bunch of nonprofit organizations that are constantly putting our hands out and asking for more – more money, more volunteers, more support. Well, I am here to tell you that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Santa Clara County is one of 156 communities throughout the country that participated in Arts & Economic Prosperity III, the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. This study documents the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry. My nonprofit organization, Arts Council Silicon Valley, with funding from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation and support from the County of Santa Clara, coordinated efforts locally for the past year and a half, collecting valuable data from 75 local nonprofit arts organizations and over 1,300 audience members throughout the county.


Textile arts sold in the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles Gift Shop

The study focuses solely on the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and event-related spending by their audiences. Not included in this study is spending by individual artists and the for-profit arts and culture sector (e.g., Broadway or the motion picture industry) and data was not extrapolated – meaning the results were based only on those organizations that filled out the surveys.

So what does the information tell us ? First of all, it tells us that the nonprofit arts community is an industry; one that generates $166.5 million in total economic impact, nearly 4,000 full-time jobs, and almost $12 million in local and state taxes. But these numbers only tell part of the story.

What makes this study so valuable is that it uses a sophisticated economic analysis that tracks how many times a dollar is “re-spent” within the local economy, and the economic impact generated by each round of spending. So how can a dollar be re-spent? Let me give you an example of how spending by a nonprofit arts organization has a profound economic impact:


Shakespeare in the Park, Cupertino, Cailfornia

A theater company purchases a gallon of paint from the local hardware store for $20, generating the direct economic impact of the expenditure. The hardware store then uses a portion of that $20 to pay the sales clerk’s salary; the sales clerk re-spends some of the money for groceries; the grocery store uses some of the money to pay its cashier; the cashier then spends some for the utility bill; and so on. The subsequent rounds of spending are the indirect economic impacts. And best of all…that money stays within the community

As you can see, the initial expenditure by the theater company was followed by four additional rounds of spending (by the hardware store, sales clerk, grocery store, and the cashier).

The study also looks at audience spending and the role arts patrons play in generating economic impact. For example, if you were to attend a local arts event, you may pay to park in a garage (which goes to the city); you may go out to dinner beforehand near the venue or even buy drinks or dessert afterwards; and if you want some alone time, you might have to have to pay a babysitter. That is a lot of money that is associated with one local arts event and generates related commerce for local businesses such as restaurants, parking garages, hotels, and retail stores.

In fact, this study shows us that per person per event, a local resident will pay over $16 – EXCLUDING the price of the ticket. Now when you add in arts events and festivals where people come here from out of town, you can double the price a person will spend per event, which trickles down to hotel rooms and other tourist-related activities.


San Jose’s historic California Theatre, in the SOFA District — Close to galleries, hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants.

While these examples show us just how important the arts are to our local economies it doesn’t even begin to address the intrinsic value that the arts provide – the way that it feeds our souls, brings together the community, celebrates our rich cultural heritage, and provides a well-rounded education for our children.

This combined with the now-proven economic benefit of the arts is enough show beyond a doubt that the arts do mean business here in Santa Clara County and supporting the arts is not a hand-out but rather an investment that pays many times over.

To view and download a copy of the study, you can visit:

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