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Boston's Arts Sector Attracts More Visitors Than Sports Games, Report Says

Arts and culture events serve about 21 million people a year in the Greater Boston area -- nearly four times more people than attend Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics games combined, according to ArtsBoston’s new report.

"The Arts Factor" study, which is funded by Bank of America, also shows the number of arts attendees has increased by 40% since the last study in 2014.

Along with bringing in people to events, the industry contributes $2 billion annually to the local economy. The influx of money is not limited to cultural events, but all of the tangential spending that goes along with cultural outings: paying for parking, going out to eat before or after an event and shopping at local businesses because they were out at an arts happening.

A cultural event happens every nine minutes in the Greater Boston area, according to the report.

“We live in a place that has so many universities and conservatories,” ArtsBoston director Catherine Peterson said. “We have a lot of students, a lot of artists, musicians, actors, dancers, who stay in Boston and they start their own groups. We have a really interesting ecology with these big world-famous organizations, mid-sized ones, like the Huntington and A.R.T., and then little fringe ones. It’s [the arts scene that is] rich not only in terms of quality but also in terms of quantity, and there is something for everybody here in Boston.”

Although the study shows the value of the arts and culture sector in Greater Boston using quantitative analysis, the report is also accompanied by personal anecdotes that aim to convey the value of the data. In one of those stories, Evelyn Francis, the producing co-executive director of The Theater Offensive, an organization that mainly serves LGBTQ+ youth, still sees challenges in the artistic ecosystem. "Most art organizations in the city are still dominated by a white, cis male, baby-boomer leadership that means well but does not represent the diversity of our community," Francis writes. "As the previous generation retires, what’s our transition plan?"

Peterson said ArtsBoston plans to release more of these personal reflections this fall. "We're telling a very broad story with the report we're putting out right now," Peterson said. "There are much deeper stories to tell about how arts and culture are improving our region."

"The Arts Factor" is a curation of information ArtsBoston sought out through the arts and culture organizations in the Greater Boston area, Peterson said. Once the information was collected, it contextualized the stories that needed to be told alongside the numbers.

“It was the first time really that we had access to reliable data that was not just about the big folks but also included smaller organizations,” Peterson said. “So we wanted to make sure that everyone was represented and that everyone had access to this data."

The arts sector also creates more than 30,000 jobs in the area, almost as much as the retail industry in Boston.

"This is really about what the arts and culture mean to us as a region," Peterson said of "Arts Factor 2019," "and how having us at the table allows us to contribute to making this a better region and a better place for us to live and to work and to visit."

Related:

Cintia Lopez Arts Fellow
Cintia Lopez is a fellow for The ARTery, WBUR's arts and culture team.

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