Tucson Flourishes as Arts Mecca

Jan 11, 2023 | News

In a new article by Loni Nannini we get backstage access into how the “Old Pueblo”, thanks to local arts organizations and out-of-the-box creatives, is becoming the 21st-century destination for the visual and performing arts. 

The Arts: An Economic Powerhouse
Statewide, the rich tapestry of traditional, Indigenous, contemporary and emerging forms of arts and culture account for more than 86,000 jobs and contribute $9.6 billion to the economy annually, according to 2020 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2021, Southern Methodist University DataArts (which partners with local arts organizations nationwide) found that 37 Tucson arts organizations – 36 with budgets under $5 million – generated more than $34 million in salaries and benefits to local residents and physical expenses (rent and repairs) paid to local businesses.

In Southern Arizona, this translates into real dollars for dining, lodging, retail and industries such as architecture, construction, commercial real estate, technology, industrial and interior design services. A 2020 study by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance revealed the nonprofit arts and cultural sector generates 10,000-plus jobs and $87.7 million in annual revenue. 

“Prior to the COVID pandemic, statistics indicated that for every dollar spent attending a performance, an additional $5 to $7 dollars are generated in the local economy. We can tell you what is happening on all of the stages in Tucson, but as an industry, we must promote awareness about the economic impact of these performances,” said Chad Herzog, executive director of Arizona Arts Live.

The importance of Tucson’s diverse arts to economic sustainability can’t be overstated, said Michael Guymon, president and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber.

“All economically viable and successful communities have an abundant arts scene and Tucson is distinguished by offering every element of performance art: music, opera, dance, drama and vocal arts,” said Guymon. “We also have a vibrant visual arts scene with venues like the Tucson Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, where I previously served on the board of directors. We also have incredible murals, public art and other amenities typically found in major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.”

That profile is enhanced by safe housing and neighborhoods, education, health services and more that create “Livable Communities.” They result in a competitive edge over other cities as determined by the Economic Blueprint created in conjunction with Sun Corridor Inc., the region’s economic development arm.

“Our original economic blueprint, which was developed 15 years ago and is still our guidepost today, notes that economically competitive communities have high standards for livability. We identified a vibrant arts and culture community as one of those standards,” said Joe Snell, Sun Corridor Inc. president and CEO.

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