The economic argument is being used increasingly by arts institutions as they assert their role as economic engines, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum is at the forefront of trumpeting its power in the realm of tourism.
Last Friday, the Metropolitan Museum announced that their three summer show, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, Tomás Saraceno on the Roof: Cloud City, and The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde generated an:
” … estimated $781 million in spending by regional, national, and foreign tourists to New York, according to a visitor survey the Museum released today. Using the industry standard for calculating tax revenue impact, the study found that the direct tax benefit to the City and State from out-of-town visitors to the Museum for the season totaled some $78.1 million.”
The number is roughly 14% less than the $908 million last year’s visitors generated, when the museum hosted the blockbuster Alexander McQueen show, but the 2012 number is 25% higher than the $593 million generated in 2009 and 22% higher than 2008’s $610 million total.
The Metropolitan Museum survey highlights the fact that cultural institutions are emphasizing the financial benefits of their activities perhaps as a way to ensure that arts aren’t impacted when local or state politicians are eager to cut budgets. Last month, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Fortune Magazine he’d slash arts funding if elected.
This summer, Detroit-area voters agreed to allow their tax dollars to go towards saving the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The Detroit issue attracted national attention as many museum directors were quietly watching the campaign with great interest and wondering if similar measures could be considered in their regions. One museum director Hyperallergic spoke with, who asked to remain anonymous, said that if the vote didn’t pass many people were privately discussing that the DIA’s future would’ve been bleak and could’ve led to massive deaccessioning in order to pay the bills. In the run up to the Detroit vote, ArtsServe Michigan released data that announced that every dollar invested in the arts yields $51 for the state economy.
The Met survey also revealed interesting facts about the role the museum plays in the plans of area tourist. According to the survey, which used a scale of one to 10 to gauge responses, 26% of visitors said the museum’s summer shows were quite important in motivating them to visit New York (8 or above), and 51% said that the Met in general was an important reason they visited the city (8 or above).
In a statistic that shouldn’t surprise any Met visitor, 47% of summer visitors to the Metropolitan Museum were international visitors, while 23% were from the Tri-State area (NY, NJ, CT) and 30% were from other regions of the United States.
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