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Report Shows That Arts Organizations Continue to Suffer During Economic Crisis

Fear that this will begin to affect the state’s recovery as fewer arts programs impact the hospitality and tourism sectors

Rhode Island arts organizations are continuing to suffer from the effects of a declining state and national economy, threatening Rhode Island’s own economic recovery as fewer arts events begin to affect our state’s restaurant and hospitality industry. This is according to a recent update of a study originally released in October 2008 by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Contributions continue to fall and ticket income is significantly down even though ticket sales are generally seen to be stable, according to new information gathered by the State Arts Council from Rhode Island arts organizations

“This continues to be a significant problem for all Rhode Islanders, not just the many who enjoy and participate in the arts,” according to Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the State Arts Council. “The arts contribute significantly to our state’s economy. Yet the arts organizations that help fill our restaurants and parking garages are fragile, and can be seriously affected by a poor economy. If conditions require organizations to cut programs or fire staff, the impact will be profound, not just for those organizations and artists but also for all the sectors of our economy that depend on an active arts scene.”

Dr. Bob Billington, President of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, agreed. "Any cultural program slowdown in Rhode Island affects so many financial bottom-lines.", said Billington. "Our cultural organizations provide one of the chief reasons people travel to our state. Many businesses rely on arts and cultural program successes to support their own businesses. So if programs falter, business slowdowns will follow. We should do all we can to insure success the "geotourist" activities of our state provide."

The report shows that a significant majority of arts organizations (68%) feel that things are worse now than they were in October 2008, when the first survey was conducted. A higher percentage of arts organizations report a downturn in contributions than in October, and both large and small arts organizations are feeling the pain, moreso than in October when a more significant number of smaller arts organizations reported problems with fund-raising.

Ticket sales continue to suffer as well. Although only half of all arts organizations report a downturn in ticket sales, practically all report that ticket revenue is significantly down. As we saw in our earlier survey, more people are purchasing single tickets, discounted tickets or lower priced seats, and the uncertainty for arts organizations is compounded by patrons waiting until the last minute to purchase tickets.

The report outlines several steps that can be taken to address the short-term issues facing arts organizations while we prepare for a difficult economic period. Local arts leaders are beginning to address these issues in a collaborative fashion. A copy of the report can be obtained at the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts website, at http://www.arts.ri.gov/economy

The State Arts Council has also established a special web page on Economic Recovery and the Arts to document what is happening here in the Ocean State and throughout the country on this important issue. RISCA is soliciting comments, suggestions and recommendations from the arts community on possible strategies and solutions. Go to http://www.arts.ri.gov/special/econ-crisis/ to visit the site and contribute to the discussion.

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.

Related links

Department or agency: Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

Online: http://www.arts.ri.gov/

Release date: 02-17-2009

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