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Measuring the Economic Impact of the Arts: Arts and Economic Prosperity 6 Study

by Imagine MKE on Jan 31, 2023
Measuring the Economic Impact of the Arts: Arts and Economic Prosperity 6 Study

We all know that arts and culture are vital to our quality of life, but did you know that the arts are also major economic drivers, through employment and the tourism and hospitality industries? This year, for the first time ever, Milwaukee is part of a national survey from Americans for the Arts that seeks to gather data to quantify the economic impact of arts and culture within communities, and nationwide. Imagine MKE is administering the survey with help from partners including the Milwaukee Reperatory Theatre, First Stage, the Marcus Center, The Milwaukee County Zoo, and many more. 

Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6) is the sixth national study of the ecomomic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the United States. The AEP study is conducted about every five years to capture data related to the economic impact of spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and spending of their audiences in relation to their performances, concerts and art events. Administered by Americans for the Arts, AEP6 will examine the economic impact of the arts and culture in about 400 participating communities nationwide.

In 2017, the previous study, AEP5, showed findings that tell a compelling story about the significant economic impact of the arts. For example, the study found that nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity during 2015—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments. As Wisconsin is currently last in the nation for public funding for the arts, there is a strong case to be made for an increase in investment in the arts, in part, as a way to promote revenue for our community.

Organizations that participate in the study will also receive customized analysis of their own economic impact within the Milwaukee arts and culture landscape. These findings can help organizations in grant writing and seeking future investments. 

Learn more about the findings of the AEP5 study.

More about AEP6:

Audience-intercept surveys are underway, and will be collected from attendees to arts events in Milwaukee through April 2023. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations will be surveyed in 2023. The study's results will be published in September 2023. Imagine MKE will receive a customized report on the specific economic impact results for our region, including the number of employees that are supported by arts organizations and the amount of government revenue generated.

Honoring Diversity and Inclusion in the Process

From Americans for the Arts' website:

"Americans for the Arts is committed to addressing equity and inclusion as a critical component of the methodology, organizational participation, and collection of data for AEP6 by centering and representing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American) identifying communities—a segment of the nonprofit arts and culture sector that has been underrepresented in past studies.

AEP6 is making a significant expansion beyond its previous iterations by centering equity and inclusion across the study. This change is more than simply responding to a priority. It is transforming the study—a full shake-out of the methodology to reduce systemic bias in survey design, data collection, and analysis; establishing a new local, state, and national partnership model; community engagement and communications strategies; and the creation of new narratives based on the study results.

For the first time, AEP6 will establish a benchmark of arts and culture organizations that primarily serve communities of color, and the audiences that attend their events. It will also identify organizations that have a chief executive who identifies as BIPOC or ALAANA. Researchers will use the data to calculate the economic impact of the BIPOC and ALAANA arts sector."

For more information and a full list of the communities participating in the AEP6 study, visit 

Questions? Interested in partnering with us to survey audiences at your arts event? Contact Operations Coordinator Rachel Shields Ebersole at

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