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Arts And Culture Pouring Millions Into Greater Houston Economy

The arts and culture industry in Houston is thriving, according to a new national survey. Our region even expanded its creative sector over the past five years, despite the recession.


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Most Houstonians probably know the basic facts about our arts scene.

We have major companies for opera, ballet, symphony and theater, and a number of respected museums and galleries.

But few may realize how much money this churns through our regional economy.

Right now, it’s $869 million dollars a year.

Jonathon Glus of the Houston Arts Alliance says that’s 39 percent more than five years ago. 

 “So we had a huge increase, just in five years even as we went through the recession. Not every city can say that. So we can be very proud that not only have we been among the most resilient, but we’ve actually grown in that same period of time.”

This translates into about 20,000 jobs and $97 million in revenue for local and state government.

Robert Lynch is President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, the national organization that conducts the survey.

He says not only does our region have supportive audiences, but it also has a healthy diversity of emerging artists and ethnic arts organizations.

“The breadth of ethnicity and variety of ethnic offerings of art in Houston can hold its own against any place in America – and in fact in some ways I would venture to say that’s where a lot of the growth is, in this city.”

Glus says Houston is emerging as a center for Latin American art.

He also points out that the newest survey measured only the non-profit arts community.

If you add in a recent study of the for-profit creative businesses, like architects, fashion designers, and movie theaters, then the economic impact gets even more substantial.

One takeaway from all these studies is that Houston’s national reputation lags behind the reality.  Again, Glus:

 “As we all know we are traditionally considered a business destination, not a leisure destination. We all know we’re both, but we have to tell our story.”

Rice University also released a report (PDF) this week showing that locally, the arts message is out there.

The survey showed that Harris County residents are avid consumers of culture.

And if they had to choose, they’d choose arts over professional sports.

And, they overwhelmingly support more arts education in the schools.

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