Silicon Valley arts programs funnel millions into economy
Kerry Adams Hapner, director of cultural affairs for San Jose said the arts fuel social cohesion and community development. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Tech might be king in Silicon Valley but the economic effect of arts and culture on the region should not be brushed aside — it brings millions of dollars into Santa Clara County.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 study showed Santa Clara County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $384.5 million in economic activity in 2022, including $292 million in San Jose. Countywide, the arts supported 5,916 jobs, provided $243.2 million in personal income to residents and generated $63.9 million in government tax revenue. The research was done by Americans for the Arts in partnership with the San Jose Office of Economic Development and Cultural Affairs and SVCREATES. 

Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said the arts help with residents’ well being and the county’s prosperity and impacts generations to come.

“Art not only fills our souls, but strengthens our economy,” she said. “Art is serious business.”

Randy Cohen, vice president of research for Americans for the Arts, said the arts improve communities socially and economically. Nationally, 86% of people surveyed by the study said the arts improve quality of life and create more livable communities, he said.

“Arts and culture beautify our cities and towns. It brings joy to residents. It creates the places we want to live and work,” he told San José Spotlight. “(It) helps drive tourism and they’re a jobs industry. Arts organizations are spending money in the community. They purchase goods and services from other businesses.”  

Randy Cohen, vice president of research for Americans for the Arts, said the arts improve communities socially, culturally and economically. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Cohen said few businesses generate the related spending the arts do, including hospitality spending. He said, an additional $218.2 million comes into the county through event-related expenditures by individuals attending nonprofit arts and cultural events. 

“You can see the pulling power that the arts have,” he told San José Spotlight, “and those people are spending money at local businesses. If you are a business owner, you’ve got to love the vibrant arts and culture industry. If you’re a community leader who cares about more livable communities and strengthening your economy, you can feel good about investing in arts and culture.”

In San Jose the arts provided $173.4 million in personal income to residents and $46.4 million in tax revenue, including $6 million in local taxes, the study said. Arts organizations and audiences combined created 4,738 jobs in San Jose. Last year, event-related spending by audiences brought $192 million into the city. 

Arts and culture in San Jose contribute to community pride said 86% of survey respondents. The majority, 85%, said they’d feel a sense of loss if the activity or venue was no longer available. 

San Jose director of cultural affairs Kerry Adams Hapner said the arts fuel social cohesion and community development.

“The arts bring people together whether… a museum or an outdoor festival. There’s a huge benefit of arts education for youth as well as lifelong learning,” she told San José Spotlight. “They also help develop cross cultural understanding, which is incredibly important in a diverse community like San Jose.”

The nonprofit arts and culture industry, including the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, generated $292 million annually for the San Jose economy. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Adams Hapner said as many people still work from home or have hybrid work schedules, arts events bring vibrancy to downtown, making it come alive at night and on weekends. There’s a huge ripple effect of arts activities in terms of how it supports the greater economy, she said, and investing in the arts attracts talent and industry and generates jobs.

“It’s a critical part of our creative economy and our larger economic prosperity,” she said. “It is what attracts people to a place and makes it unique. People want to work and live in a city that’s interesting and has a great cultural life.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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