Study finds Washtenaw County arts and culture generated nearly $100 million economic impact in 2022

Results from the nationally distributed Arts and Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6) survey have found that nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Washtenaw County generated nearly $100 million in economic activity and supported over 1,500 local jobs in 2022. The survey is conducted annually in numerous regions across the country by the Washington, D.C. nonprofit Americans for the Arts. The survey was distributed in the county by Creative Washtenaw and sponsored by Destination Ann Arbor.

Creative Washtenaw President and CEO Deb Polich explains that this is the sixth year the AEP has been conducted in Washtenaw County. She says the survey found overall that the economic impact of arts and culture nonprofits in Washtenaw County "completely measure[s] up" to other industries across the county.

"I'm not surprised by this at all. The arts and creativity have always been important to humans," Polich says. "This is fortifying news."

Polich says a pleasant surprise among the survey's findings was how arts and creative industries are seeing event participation rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"There's only been a slight drop," she says. "That was something that really gave us confidence." 

The main difference the survey found was the amount of local versus non-local event attendees.

"Less people are traveling to come to programs here, but those that are are spending a lot more money," Polich says. "It's really great to have these assets in the county – they bring people here to visit our community and help our economy in general."

Results also found that those attending arts and creative events in Washtenaw County view the amount and frequency of these events as a source of community pride, with 86% of attendees "agreeing that they would feel a great sense of loss if these activities or venues were no longer available."

"We are a net positive industry," Polich says. "We are a country that prides itself on innovation and invention. You can't get here without creativity."

Polich says that while "the numbers talk" when it comes to these results, the AEP6 is integral to showing the community just how formidable the nonprofit arts and culture industry is in the county, which ultimately has the ability to increase support for arts and culture nonprofits and for creativity throughout the county.

"The arts education I received helped me understand the world, other people, and myself better," Polich says. "It's not just about money. It's the power of what's created."

To learn more about the AEP6 or to read Washtenaw's report, visit Creative Washtenaw's website

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Graphic courtesy of Creative Washtenaw.
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