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Iowa Arts Council leads statewide effort to measure economic impact of the arts

Nov 17, 2022

In partnership with the Iowa Arts Council, cultural organizations in 10 Iowa communities are encouraging their visitors and patrons to weigh in on the economic impact of the arts across the state.

The research – conducted via surveys in Ames, greater Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Council Bluffs, greater Des Moines, Davenport, Dubuque, Iowa City, Marion, Mason City and Sioux City – is Iowa’s contribution to the national Arts & Economic Prosperity Study, the most in-depth arts research project of its kind in the United States. The study is organized by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, with help from state arts agencies like the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

“In a typical year, we know Iowa’s creative sector contributes more than $4 billion to the state’s economy and employs more than 43,000 creative workers statewide,” said Chris Kramer, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “This study focuses on the arts’ impact at a local level and helps community leaders and residents understand how cultural anchor organizations generate tourism, support jobs and contribute to vibrant, prosperous communities.”

“Arts and culture events directly support the livelihood of diverse artists, creative workers and local businesses, including hotels and restaurants that depend on cultural tourism,” Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said.

The current study began in May 2022 and will conclude in spring 2023, before the results are released in July. A variety of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are participating, including performing arts venues, museums, film and theater groups, cultural festivals, and historical sites.

The host sites are distributing surveys after events to better understand how arts and culture organizations contribute to growing local economies and a healthy tax base through event-related activities and purchases. For example, a family visiting a museum may also eat lunch and shop at a local small business nearby. A couple who attends a concert may dine out beforehand, pay for parking and stay at a nearby hotel.

The study also captures the same cultural organizations’ annual expenditures, number of full-time jobs and contributions to local government revenues.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity Study has been conducted five times previously and has included individual Iowa cities, but the current project is Iowa’s first statewide survey. 

The most recent edition, published in 2015, revealed that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity and supported 4.6 million jobs across the country. The Iowa portion of that study showed that in greater Des Moines alone, the arts had an annual economic impact of $185 million and accounted for more than 5,600 full-time jobs.

For more information about Americans for the Arts or the Arts & Economic Prosperity study, visit

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.