By K. Ryan Henisey and Stephanie Stallings
The good news: arts leaders are encouraged by the high salaries of performing artists, the size of the arts sector’s impact on the LA area economy and the wide variety of arts represented in the Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region . The bad news: those same leaders are surprised by the projected slow growth of the economic rebound and they want more and clearly defined data. Overall, arts leaders are impressed that this research is being done and are pleased by the amount of economic weight the arts have in our community. The question remains then, how do we use this information – for advocacy and to form partnerships?
One can easily see how the 2012 Otis Report emerges from the trend of attempting to determine the economic value of the arts for advocacy and funding purposes—an attempt also seen in Americans for the Arts’ release of the national Arts and Economic Prosperity IV last year.
While the AEP IV focuses on the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry, the Otis Report gathered data in new and interesting ways. Building on Richard Florida’s “creative class” theories, it incorporated the local visual and performing arts economy into the larger scheme of creative enterprise in the Los Angeles region. By doing so, it makes a much more persuasive argument about how the arts contribute to overall economic development.
The report mattered to the leaders gathered at the LA Stage Alliance and Emerging Art Leaders / Los Angeles event on Monday, February 4th, because it shows that the “creative economy is the fourth largest employment cluster” and “creates one out of eight jobs” in the region. It states that “direct and indirect employment in the creative industries based in Los Angeles County totaled 589,600 jobs in 2011.” These numbers have an impact on the regional economy and on the creative sector. The report also moves away from the “art for art’s sake” model built on the attempt to convey the intrinsic cultural and aesthetic value of the arts, an approach that has lost much of its efficacy due to shifting demographics and economic uncertainty.
In a workshop led by Terence McFarland, CEO of LA Stage Alliance, 25-30 LA Area arts leaders and emerging leaders tackled the Otis Report on the Creative Economy for 2012. The widely diverse group discussed challenges, hopes, and action steps needed with this large report on creative money making.
McFarland led a lively discussion with break out groups covering the Otis Report as a whole. Participants discussed their biggest surprises and worries concerning the report and ways to leverage the information to further the creative economy and economic growth in LA.
Though largely representative of nonprofit arts organizations, the participants discussed actions and displayed an interest in using the information presented within the Otis Report to further enhance the creative economy of the region. Many members called for further work with local chambers of commerce and policy makers, developing a wider nonprofit community dedicated to furthering the creative economy, and building lines of communication concerning economic growth in the arts sector to city councils, law enforcement, and more. These thoughts reveal of willingness for cross sector collaboration in the development of a total creative economy among participants.
There were some concerns with the report voiced in the room. There were questions concerning the data, especially ways in which nonprofit arts organizations were lumped with for profit arts and Hollywood. One of the largest complaints across the room was that the report did not clearly define what constituted the creative economy – for instance, the inclusion of journalism as an arts sector with no inclusion of any other publishing media. Participants pointed out other missing bits of information including statistics on higher education, job placement, and job loss across the arts sector.
Overall, the atmosphere was positive, with participants clearly concerned with how to effectively use the measurements of the Otis Report in meaningful ways across LA. It was remarked with seriousness that the Otis Report reveals LA to be an arts capitol in our nation. McFarland and EAL/LA closed the evening with a promise to keep the conversation alive with more sessions dedicated furthering the impact of the data and the creative economy.
More than anything, the Otis Report gives us data about how the arts interact with other areas of the creative ecosystem in the Los Angeles region. It’s now up to us to leverage the data and continue to build coalitions that recognize the unique contributions of the for-profit and non-profit arts to education, connectivity, engagement, and economic prosperity.