Arts & Culture in San Diego – 2010


Thursday, April 7, 2011, members and organizations in San Diego’s Arts & Culture community gathered at 10:30am at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park for a press conference releasing the economic and community impact study of nonprofit arts and culture in San Diego, CA.

What does that mean, you may ask?


Every year, the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, in partnership with the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition conduct a study on how Arts and Culture (A&C) organizations affect our community. From education, to serving the undersRACC_Logo_FINALerved, to bolstering tourism, this study takes a look at how organizations like California Ballet Company, the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Museum of Art, and 67 other organizations and institutions play a part in the vibrant tapestry that is San Diego.

So, what does the report say?

Well, to start, consider that San Diego is placed as the 8th largest city in the United States. Yeah, we’re big! Any major metropolis cannot truly thrive as a vital and vibrant community without a vital and vibrant A&C scene. This report emphasizes that philosophy, and shows just how strong and vibrant San Diego’s arts and culture scene has proven to be over the past year.

The arts are not just a civic resource, they are a driving force in the city’s economic engine.


Every year, the Commission for Arts and Culture funds nonprofit A&C organizations through what’s called the Organizational Support Program (OSP). This program is funded by money from Transient Occupancy Taxes (we tax tourists).

So here’s money that’s come into our community from people visiting our city, and it’s being invested into A&C organizations. Many of you may ask, “Why?” We have roads that need repairs. We have civic buildings that need renovations. We have other needs, and aren’t Arts and Culture just frosting and fluff?

Let’s take a look at what the study shows us for 2010:

In 2010, the 70 nonprofit organizations that received funding from the Organizational Support Program:


  •    Stimulated the economy with over $173 million in direct expenditures, including $98.8 million in salaries.
  •    Supported a workforce of more than 7,000 employees.
  •    Provided admission to events as such: 2.7 million paid, 2.2 million free.

On top of that, Cultural tourism in San Diego is major. In 2010, over 1,488,400 tourists came to our city to participate in A&C events that were funded by the OSP. It’s also been shown in studies that tourists who visit for arts & culture purposes stay twice as long and spend twice as much as other tourists. So, instead of 1.8 days, they stay an average of 3.8 days. Instead of spending $235 per trip, they spend an average of $561 per trip.

So think about it for a moment. These organizations are being funded by money that came from taxes on visitors that specifically came to see them in the first place. (Follow that?)

Now think about the trickle down effect.


Joe Smith comes to San Diego for vacation because he’s heard about the world famous San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Opera, Balboa Park, and he loves ballet. Most people who take the time to take a vacation want to make the most out of it, so they will definitely squeeze as much into their time there as possible. Joe’s stay will be at least a three day stay.

Count three nights in a local hotel, paying that local business for their room and helping to keep that hotel’s employees working. Add three days needing to get around the city, meaning that Joe must give his hard-earned money to a local car rental business, taxi driver, or the public transit system.


Joe goes to the zoo, the opera, and takes in a California Ballet Company production at the Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego. He also spends an entire day in Balboa Park just taking in the museums.

Okay, he’s now paid for admission to the zoo, the opera, the ballet, and at least three or four museums. That’s providing income for six to seven local businesses, and helping to employ all of their employees. Not to mention that the San Diego Opera performs at the San Diego Civic Theatre, and California Ballet would be at the Balboa Theatre. Now you not only have the dancers, singers, and administrative staff of the two organizations being employed by Joe’s visit, but everyone who works at the two theatres (concessions, ushers, stagehands, box office, etc.).


Also consider that this is three days of eating out. Now, Joe is pumping money into local restaurants, helping to keep the restaurants’ workers employed.

All the while, everything is being taxed, and that tax is being fed back into San Diego’s economic engine. And Joe is just one of 1,488,400 tourists who came to San Diego for arts & culture related purposes.

Still question why we use some of our tax money to support these organizations?

But we haven’t event begun to talk about how these 70 A&C organizations enrich the community through educational outreach, festivals, and community service programs.


In a time when arts and culture education is being cut from schools, who  stschooleps in and fills the gap? Hopefully, it’s the parents, but they must have someone to turn to. That’s where these organizations come into play. The money provided by the OSP helps to fund educational workshops, assemblies in schools, and more. As our country moves further and further away from an economy based on manufacturing, individuals who are able to harness their artistic and innovative side are going to become a sought-after commodity. The arts are where innovation and inspiration begins, and an arts & culture education is becoming vitally essential.

Adv Summer 2010

With money from the Organizational Support Program, California Ballet Company (remembering that we’re only one of 70 examples) takes lecture-demonstrations into schools, providing children with a chance to meet real ballet dancers and even participate in the dancing. CBC also hosts student-invitational dress rehearsals, where school children and their families can come to the theatre and experience a final dress rehearsal for free or very low-cost admission. Our funding through the OSP also helps pay for our Apprentice Program, which offers young San Diego talent the opportunity to work and train with our professional company.

You need an arts education, and you have 70 organizations and institutions ready and willing to provide it! (You might not, if it weren’t for the Commission for Arts & Culture’s support.)

Pretty interesting picture, isn’t it? San Diego’s A&C scene is HUGE! Nearly 1.5 million tourists in 2010 just for our A&C scene. Millions of dollars pumped into our economy. Ample educational opportunities, when the government lacks the resources to keep the arts in schools. Plus, outreach to underserved and at-risk communities to provide exposure and activities that can change lives. We aren’t talking small-time here. San Diego’s Arts & Culture scene is thriving, vibrant, and vital!


But the funds provided by the Commission for Arts & Culture aren’t enough. It’s actually only a fraction when you consider the following:

In 2010, the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funding to OSP organizations was $6.4 million.

The total contributed revenue to these organizations (private donors, corporate sponsors, foundation grants) was $81.8 million!

Donations eclipsed TOT funding by 12 times! What does that mean? It means that California Ballet Company, the San Diego Symphony, all of the museums in Balboa Park, the La Jolla Music Society, and many more still need your personal involvement. Whether volunteering, donating, becoming a member, or simply attending performances and museums, we need you!

“Great Cities are built with great ambitions and with discipline and innovation that transform vision into reality. That vision helped create our vibrant culture over a century ago. Every investment we make in the arts today has a lasting benefit to our economy and the other bottom line: our quality of life.”

                                    –Mayor Jerry Sanders


CLICK HERE to become a member of the California Ballet Association today!

For more information about Arts & Culture in San Diego, please go to


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