Why the arts are essential to South Florida | Opinion

In their guide to arts and culture, the website of Palm Beach County’s tourism marketing office accurately described art as “a way of life” in Delray Beach. From art shows and exhibits, live music and craft fairs, to countless art galleries and artists’ studios, our downtown is teeming with venues and experiences designed to awaken the senses and showcase the incredible art, music and culture that surrounds us.

At Arts Garage, we deliver innovative, meaningful and accessible visual and performing arts experiences to the Delray Beach community and all of Palm Beach County, as well as visitors from around the globe. The Marshall Family Foundation Gallery at Arts Garage exhibits emerging regional visual artists while our Stuart & Shelby Theater showcases Grammy Award winners, nationally touring bands and regional favorites. Our visual and performing arts programs represent diverse cultures, and we pride ourselves on organically bringing together South Florida’s many demographics while connecting our community to the world.

Since I began my tenure as president and CEO in 2016, Arts Garage has brought over 10,000 professional and emerging performers onto our stage, highlighted 200-plus emerging visual artists in our gallery, and hosted over 1,000 youth and adult arts education participants. (All made possible by our dedicated team and hundreds of volunteers serving over 85,000 hours.) In that time, through generous private donations, grants from significant funders like the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of Delray Beach and the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, and a 54% growth in ticket sales, our budget has also grown 46%.

Yet, we are still part of an even bigger movement. Art is impacting communities around the country in a multitude of ways. The national advocacy and research organization for the arts, Americans for the Arts, recently released its Arts & Economic Prosperity (AEP6) report — the largest and most inclusive study of its kind — and found that over 80% of respondents feel that the arts improve the quality of life and the livability of their community. The study also found that people reported the desire to be close to a venue of the arts as a reason to relocate, and nearly 90% of attendees surveyed at their local performing arts center agreed that the activity or venue they were attending was “a source of neighborhood pride for the community.”

The AEP6 report also touched on the significant economic impacts of the arts nationally. The study showed that, in 2022, the nonprofit arts and culture sector generated a whopping $151.7 billion of economic activity, supported over 2.6 million jobs, provided $101 billion in personal income to residents, and generated $29.1 billion in tax revenue to local, state and federal governments.

The research is clear. Art is not just about entertainment. We create jobs for artists, curators and musicians. We employ marketers, accountants, lighting and sound technical engineers and professionals that span multiple industries. And we support other local businesses through our purchase of goods and services. In fact, Arts Garage’s estimated impact on the local economy last year surpassed $2.7 million, according to AEP6’s Economic Impact Calculator.

Perhaps most importantly, we bring visitors who enjoy the art, music and performances offered at Arts Garage while also patronizing our downtown restaurants, strolling our city streets, and shopping at our local businesses. There is no question that arts and culture are imperative to the strength of our local economy — and I think that’s a tune we all like to hear.

Marjorie Waldo is president and CEO of Arts Garage, a visual and performing arts venue in Delray Beach that connects the local community to the world through the arts. Learn more at artsgarage.org.