Durham’s Nonprofit Arts and Culture Industry Generates Nearly $155 Million in Economic Activity

The nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $154,170,023 in annual economic activity in Durham County, NC —supporting 5,722 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $13,357,000 in local and state government revenues, according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 national economic impact study.

Durham outperformed the national medians and similar study region medians in every study category. The most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted in the United States, Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 was conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. Durham County is one of 341 study regions across the United States that participated, and one of 30 communities in North Carolina that are represented in the study.

Results show that nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Durham County spent $104.6 million during fiscal year 2015. This spending is far-reaching: organizations pay employees, purchase supplies, contract for services and acquire assets within their community. Those dollars, in turn, generated $132.5 million in household income for local residents and $13,357,000 in local and state government revenues.

“We were eager to participate again since this particular study has strong credibility based on the reputations of internationally recognized economists and statistical models that were utilized. This study also has the endorsement of 13 top public and private sector national associations concerned with economic and community development,” said Sherry DeVries, Executive Director of the Durham Arts Council. “Not only do the arts enhance our lives by fostering beauty, originality, and creativity and help us celebrate and connect as a community, they also create jobs, generate tax revenues, and are a major economic driver. Key business leaders in Durham cite the importance of arts and culture in helping to attract and retain the kind of employees they must have to compete in our creative economy.”

DAC Press Release – Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Study – page 2 of 3:

A total of 69 nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Durham participated in the study that was conducted in 2016 using 2015 fiscal year organizational budgetary data and audience data from 824 arts and cultural event surveys collected at 38 arts and cultural events in 2016. A total of 2,802,066 people attended nonprofit arts and cultural events in Durham in fiscal year 2016. Of that total, 57% were resident attendees, and 43% were non-resident attendees. In addition to the price of admission, they averaged spending $17.69 per person, all dollars that went into the local economy. Non-residents ($22.24) spent over 1.5 times more than a resident attendee ($14.19).

Durham Arts Council provided the local leadership, study support and fees for Durham’s participation in this milestone national study. This is the fifth national study of nonprofit arts economic impact conducted by Americans for the Arts; the second time that Durham has been able to participate; and the second time that a state-wide study was conducted for North Carolina.

“This study demonstrates that the arts are an economic and employment powerhouse both locally and across the nation,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive and helps local communities become stronger and healthier places to live. Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business.”

Nationally, the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study reveals that the nonprofit arts industry produced $166.3 billion in economic activity during 2015. This spending—$63.8 billion by nonprofit arts and culture organizations plus an additional $102.5 billion event-related spending by their audiences—supported 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments – a yield well beyond their collective $5 billion in arts allocations.

Statewide in North Carolina, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $2.12 billion in direct economic activity, supporting more than 72,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $201.5 million in revenue for local governments and the State of North Carolina. Statewide, 30 communities, including Durham, contracted with AFTA for local reports on their nonprofit arts and cultural industry.

Arts Industry Boon for Local Businesses in Durham

In addition to spending by organizations, the nonprofit arts and culture industry leverages $49,550,897 in event-related spending by its audiences. As a result of attending a cultural event, attendees often eat dinner in local restaurants, pay for parking, buy gifts and souvenirs, and pay a babysitter. What’s more, attendees from out of town often stay overnight in a local hotel.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study was conducted by Americans for the Arts and supported by The Ruth Lilly Fund of Americans for the Arts. Americans for the Arts’ local, regional, and statewide project partners contributed both time and financial support to the study.

Financial information from organizations was collected in partnership with DataArts™, using a new online survey interface. For a full list of the communities who participated in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, visit

DAC Press Release – Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Study – page 3 of 3:

Durham Arts & Cultural Organizations that Participated:

100 Men in Black; African American Dance Ensemble; American Dance Festival; Art of Cool Project; Arts & Health At Duke; Bartlett Theater; Bennett Place State Historic Site; BUMP: The Triangle; Carolina Theatre of Durham; Carolina Wren Press; Carrack Modern Art; Center For Documentary Studies At Duke University; Choral Society of Durham; City of Durham Parks And Recreation: Arts & Cultural Programs; Claymakers Arts Community; Duke Homestead State Historic Site; Duke Performances; Duke University Press; Duke University String School; Durham Art Guild; Durham Arts Council; Durham Central Park; Durham Children’s Choir; Durham Community Chorale; Durham Community Concert Band; Durham Library Foundation; Durham Medical Orchestra Foundation; Durham Music Teachers’ Association; Durham Regional Theatre; Durham Savoyards, Ltd.; Durham Symphony Orchestra; El Centro Hispano; Eno River Association; Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana; Gaspard and Dancers; Girls Rock; Historic Stagville State Historic Site; Jazz Foundation of North Carolina; Jewish Heritage Foundation; KidZnotes; Durham Ballet Theatre; Liberty Arts; Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern; Mallarme Chamber Players; Manbites Dog Theater Company; Museum of Durham History; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; National Humanities Center; NC Arts in Action; NC Folklife Institute; NC Folklore Society; NC Latin American Film Festival; NC Museum of Life and Science; NCCU Jazz Festival; Power Plant Gallery; Preservation Durham; Rags to Riches Theatre for Young Audiences; Sarah P. Duke Gardens; The Scrap Exchange; SEEDS; Southern Documentary Fund; St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation / Hayti Heritage Center; Triangle ArtWorks; Unexposed Micro Cinema; Walltown Children’s Theatre; WNCU 90.7 FM; UNC TV; and Young People’s Performing Company.

About Durham Arts Council

Durham Arts Council, Inc. (DAC) is a private, 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization that “is a catalyst in the cultural development of Durham – it leads, inspires, and promotes excellence in and access to the creation, experience, and active support of the arts for all the people of our community.” Each year DAC provides programs, services, and support for more than 60 arts organizations and 1,500+ individual artists in our region, plus nearly 400,000 program participants and visitors to DAC that it serves through classes, artist residencies, exhibits, festivals, grant programs, technical support, arts advocacy and information services.

Durham Arts Council fills five major roles in the region through which it carries out its mission:

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