G-Sync: And The Winner Is...

Awards are often heaven sent like ArtServe's recent FY 2010 on Michigan's art scene.
Awards season is upon us. This week, I was nominated for the Local Hero award at the Local First Local Motion awards. I did not win, but as I surveyed the entire list of nominees, it occurred to me that any city would be fortunate to have just a percentage of what we have here. Dare I say it? We are a community much blessed.

And while we showcased excellence at Local First’s annual awards on Tuesday, our state was awarded a new Creative State Michigan report focused on Fiscal Year 2010 prepared by ArtServe Michigan (ArtServe), a statewide arts and cultural advocacy organization.

This report gave credence to something many of us hypothesized, but could not quantify until now: The arts and cultural institutions are a vital part of our state’s recovery and future.

The newly formed Michigan Cultural Data Project, in partnership with and harnessed through the power of the Pew Charitable Trusts (PCT) national model, reveals a snapshot of our state. It is looking picture-perfect, if we pay attention and avoid the obvious pitfalls of business as usual and the reinforcements of the old adage that our cultural institutions are just for the elite.

In 2004, the PCT launched the first data-gathering project in Pennsylvania before expanding to 11 more states including Michigan.

There is power contained in such data. Creative Industries Report used very narrow definitions to include groups like orchestras, galleries, arts centers, and other traditional arts organizations. ArtServe unlocked the mystery of how the arts and the arts-related sectors defined by the creative economy are truly significant growth sectors and offers our state a strategic opportunity to leverage in building our economy.

For example, from 2006 to 2011, the number of arts-related jobs increased by 15 percent to 85,656 jobs in Michigan, while arts-related businesses increased by 65 percent to 28,072.  

One of the other triumphs is that while the nonprofit creative community spent $553.4 million in annual expenditures in 2010, this translated to nearly $194 million for supported salaries for 22,335 jobs.  

This moves the conversation about Michigan's creative economy to the realm of assets management. How do we leverage the arts for the betterment of all of Michigan?

According to Jennifer Goulet, president and CEO of ArtServe, instead of making arts funding the first to cut, we should begin to treat the arts as valuable aspects of our state's true worth. The Michigan CDP data includes FY 2010 data profiles from 346 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, which two years past the study period now includes 785 registered participants all being studied via their site.

"We had a hint in January 2012 when we released the first part of the FY 2010 report that this was going to be a powerful new study, but without the hard facts, we could only assume," says Goulet. "The first positive step to come out of this report is that now, as we move these numbers to the desks of Lansing's elected leaders, we can begin to showcase the scope of influence and power the arts sector has on our economy."

This concept of Michigan as a cultural destination is also gaining steam since it has been discovered that 16 percent of the state's total tourism revenue hails from the arts -- more than golf, boating and sailing, hunting, fishing, hiking, and biking combined. Goulet also shares that not only do people stay longer in our state when traveling for a cultural experience, they often bring others with them on their return visit.

And if you think this report is just for our legislative leaders, well, that would be a big mistake. Goulet encourages key state leadership and municipals to utilize these findings quickly to unlock the power for their citizens.

One key component of this report is the ability to use the arts and creative sectors more fully at the business recruitment level. Companies would look at a diverse set of factors in attracting and creating retention of said candidates.

It would be easy to say all is rosy, and you might be partially right in your assessment, but there are warnings as well.

One item where we are seeing improvement is that when this study first began in 2009, the shocking truth was revealed that on an average, our cultural institutions were functioning on operating reserves of just nine days! If you have ever heard the saying that a person is a couple of paychecks away from being homeless, then that reflects what the arts organizations were facing after the crash of 2008.

Goulet is happy to report that while we still have work to do in this area, our cultural institutions now have working capital with an operating reserve of 66 days now. This is something to celebrate.

Skeptics might even want to point to the arts and say that when you are on government payroll, of course you are able to be viable, but this report reveals that within the organizations, 70 cents of every dollar that comes in is a result of rental income, tuition, tickets, merchandise, and memberships. The other 30 percent is via contributions from government (5 percent), corporate donations (5 percent), foundations (7 percent), individual donors (8 percent), and the mysterious other (5 percent).

I might be going out on a limb, but looking at these stats, I think businesses concerned with retention might want to add another zero to that check next time to keep us competitive. After all, we are only one of 12 states with this report.

In the coming months, an even more in depth report on the creative jobs market will be released. It is a first-time study looking into what areas of Michigan are viable and beneficial to the artists. This is a study I have been asking for here over the years that will finally begin harnessing data from a host of economic and sociological indicators.

No doubt, if we take the time to apply the findings of this report to our city, it is going to be an exciting year at ArtServe and an exciting future for our state's creative economy.

The Future Needs All of Us.

Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

To connect to the best arts events this weekend in West Michigan, please visiti G-Sync Events.

Editor’s Note: To dive deeper into the results of the FY 2010 report, please visit this site. In addition, ArtServe has many opportunities to stay connected to the advocacy work they provide. Be sure to sign up here to get in the loop of breaking news from ArtServe Michigan.
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