The Business of the Arts

The non-profit arts are a $626 million industry in Houston: That's the pitch business leaders are using to get other businesses involved in supporting the local arts community. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has this report on the business of the arts.

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As the notes of Mozart's The Magic Flute soared through the lobby of the Wortham Center, several hundred business men and women gathered to hear how the arts impact their companies' bottom line. The results of the cultural impact study were impressive: the non-profit arts are a $626 million industry, bringing in more revenue than the city's convention industry and higher attendance than Houston's three major league professional sports teams combined. Houston Endowment President Larry Faulkner says one of the goals of the study was to demonstrate the arts are a natural element in Houston's economic strategy.

"In my view our best edge is in the arts and we have a good chance to strengthen that edge over time. Through ventursome foresight and sheer dedication, Houston has already assembled tremendous artistic assets. At a very realistic cost, we could commit to developing and sustaining globally distinctive strength in the arts."

The arts affect quality of life and quality of life affects the ease with which businesses can recruit talent. So the business community is taking a new look at the vitality and health of Houston's arts scene. Joe Dilg is a managing partner at Vinson & Elkins law firm and a Houston Arts Alliance boardmember. He says supporting the arts is part of his firm's business strategy.

"We're only as good as the human talent we can attract to Houston and the other cities where we have offices. We have to sell Houston as a place to live just like we have to sell Vinson & Elkins as a place to work. Having a world-class major arts institutions and an active and vibrant arts group around the entire city in various organizations is critical to our ability to be able to attract the type of talent we want to the firm."

The study shows the arts support more than 14,000 full-time jobs and there are more than 12,000 professional artists living in Houston. Mayor Bill White, who is known for his strong business background, told those in attendance that Houston is poised to be a world giant in the arts.

"Arts require patronage and we have that and people are willing. So my case is that it's not just important that Houston be competitive in the arts. I think we can aspire with the support of the citizens of this community for the artists that we have here and will attract to be a city that 50 years from, 100 years from now people look back and talk about the explosion of arts centered in Houston, Texas."

And using the language of business to speak to business people, Larry Faulkner summed up the message on behalf of Houston's arts community.

"My message today is simple: think of the arts in strategic terms. Support arts organizations with financial contributions, patronage and volunteer participation not just because Houston's arts are nice to have, but because they are strong threads in the fabric of our community and can remain strong and reliable long into the future."

You can find a link to the full impact study at kuhf dot org. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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