Groundbreaking Study Reveals Economic and Social Impact of $68 million Nonprofit Arts and Culture Sector in Santa Cruz County


 | November 15, 2023

SANTA CRUZ, CA — November 9, 2023 —Arts Council Santa Cruz County announced that Santa Cruz County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $68 million in economic activity in 2022, according to the newly released Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6), a national economic and social impact study conducted by Americans for the Arts and commissioned by Arts Council Santa Cruz County.

Spending by arts and culture audiences generates valuable commerce to local merchants, a value-add that few other industries can compete with. That economic activity–$54,469,219 million in expenditures by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and $13,698,812 in event-related spending by their audiences–supported 1,437 jobs and generated $23,419,197 in local, state, and federal government revenue.

The Arts Council commissioned two additional studies locally, one for the City of Santa Cruz and one for the City of Watsonville. The total economic impact figures ($38 million in the City of Santa Cruz and less than $9 million in the City of Watsonville) highlight the disparity between North and South County.

“Cultural vitality is the heartbeat of Santa Cruz County, and the Arts and Economic Prosperity Study unequivocally underscores the immeasurable value of arts and culture to our community,” says Arts Council Santa Cruz County Executive Director Jim Brown. “This research illuminates the economic contributions and the profound social enrichment that the arts bring to our region. The research also highlights the disparity between the City of Santa Cruz and the City of

Watsonville. The data speaks loudly – Santa Cruz generates an economic impact of close to four times that of Watsonville, per capita. This difference underscores the need to bridge the gap in events, venues, and artist opportunities between our north and south county, ensuring that the benefits of arts and culture are accessible and equitable for all.”

“The arts play a pivotal role in shaping our local economy and are the heart and soul of our community’s identity. This study underscores the remarkable strides made by the Watsonville Movement for the Arts, while also illuminating the pressing necessity and potential for increased investment and broader accessibility to the arts within Watsonville,” says Noe Ibarra, Chair of the City of Watsonville Parks and Recreation Commission.

“The City has long recognized the importance of artists in the weave of the social fabric of our community. These survey results serve to further highlight their contribution to the vitality of the Santa Cruz economy,” says Bonnie Lipscomb, Director of the City of Santa Cruz Department of Economic Development & Housing.

Building on its 30-year legacy as the most extensive and inclusive study of its kind, AEP6 uses a rigorous methodology to document the economic and social contributions of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry.

Nationally, the Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6) study reveals that America’s nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $151.7 billion industry—one that supports 2.6 million jobs and generates $29.1 billion in government revenue.

AEP6 represents a reset from its previous versions, establishing a new benchmark in the AEP study series.

●  Social Impact: For the first time, AEP6 expands beyond the economic and financial data to include social impact measurements of arts and culture’s effect on the well-being of communities and residents.

●  Equity and Inclusion: AEP6 broke new ground by prioritizing equity, community engagement, and inclusivity. To reduce systemic bias, Americans for the Arts transformed its approach and expanded the inclusion and participation of organizations serving or representing BIPOC- (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and ALAANA- (African, Latine, Asian, Arab, Native American) identifying communities.

“The Arts and Economic Prosperity study’s expansion to prioritize equity highlights how the arts can serve as a catalyst for building stronger, more vibrant, and equitable communities,” says Consuelo Alba, Board President of Arts Council Santa Cruz County.

Nationally, extensive research reveals proportional economic and community impacts among attendees at BIPOC and ALAANA organizations to the overall national average. These findings

should initiate new and escalate existing critical funding conversations about BIPOC and ALAANA organizations receiving fair and proportional financial support.

Key figures from Santa Cruz County’s AEP6 study include:

●  Santa Cruz County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $13.7 million in event-related spending by its audiences.

●  The typical attendee spends $30.26 per person per event, not including the cost of admission.

●  In Santa Cruz County, 22.5% of attendees are nonlocal visitors who traveled from outside Santa Cruz County; they spend an average of $52.74 per event, not including the cost of admission.

●  89% of respondents agreed that the activity or venue they attended was “a source of neighborhood pride for the community.”

●  87.4% said they would “feel a sense of loss if that activity or venue was no longer available.”

Download the full reports here.

About Arts Council Santa Cruz County

The Arts Council’s mission is to nurture and invest in artists, culture, and the arts. Together, we’re building a stronger Santa Cruz County, where all artists have access to the resources they need to thrive, where a full range of creative expression is accessible to everyone, and where the arts are recognized for their essential contributions to a healthy, vibrant, and representative community.

Through grants to artists and arts organizations, arts education programs that serve more than 20,000 youth across Santa Cruz County, and community initiatives such as Open Studios, the Tannery Arts Center, and the Watsonville Center for the Arts, we help Santa Cruz County thrive. Learn more at

About the Arts & Economic Prosperity Study
The Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 Study was conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. It was supported by The Ruth Lilly Endowment Fund of Americans for the Arts. Americans for the Arts’ 297 study partners contributed both time and financial support to the study. For a full list of the communities participating in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 study,

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