The Arts’ Influence in San Diego


Cities across the United States provide funding for their resident arts and culture organizations. The shape of the programs vary from city to city, but one thing they all recognize, from New York to San Francisco, is that what sets a great city apart from the rest is a thriving arts and culture scene.

We live and work in San Diego, and there can be no doubt about it: San Diego loves their arts and culture! 60 Broadway shows, 2 Tony Images 2Award-winning theaters, three major ballet companies, a multi-million dollar Symphony and Opera, a world-renowned Zoo, one of the greatest municipal parks to come out of the WPA . . . the list goes on and on!

Every year the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture releases an Economic Impact Report for the arts in San Diego. They do an excellent job of keeping it from being dry, but we like to break it down further into tasty little morsels. The theme of this year’s report on 2011 was the idea of more.

More what, you ask? Simple:

  • More revenue
  • More jobs
  • More tourists
  • More education
  • More businesses
  • More everything!

Sounds kinda dry, right? And you’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with me?” (Unless you happen to be an artist, that is.) Well, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

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Every year the City of San Diego provides funding to local arts and culture organizations through a program called the Organizational Support Program. We’ll call it OSP for short. Now you’re saying, “What?! Their using my hard-earned tax dollars to support private industry?”

Well, not exactly. First off, the money comes from taxes placed on tourists to the city. Whenever someone from out of town stays at a hotel, they pay an extra tax. That means this money doesn’t come from the pockets of local residents, but it does benefit locals.

Secondly, let’s think about the arts for a moment. . .  yes, many arts companies are privately owned businesses, but not all. Those supported by the OSP are nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to serving their community. That means they are corporations with oversight by a Board of Trustees – a group of private citizens like you.These companies don’t make a huge profit that they then turn around into kickbacks for investors and bonuses for execs.

Instead, every ‘extra’ cent earned is turned around and pumped back into the programs that serve your community. So, really, these arts and culture businesses belong to everyone.They enrich our lives through entertainment and education that neither private citizens nor the government can provide alone.


Isn’t that worth a little support?

But, back to the report. Did you know that in 2011 San Diego arts & culture organizations provided over $170 million in direct expenditures? That’s over $170 million that went right into our local economy. Think of money as coal for a locomotive engine. The more coal in the engine, the faster the train goes. The more money in the city’s economy, the faster our quality of life increases.


A strong arts and culture scene means more coal in our engine.

Oh, and the amount of money provided by the OSP in 2011? $5.8 million. Let’s do the math: if those organizations pumped $170 million back into the city’s economic engine, that means the return on investment is approximately 29 to 1. That seems worthwhile, doesn’t it?

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We mentioned that the report shows more jobs and more tourism. Let’s talk about those together – more tourism means more jobs, and the jobs created by the arts and culture community draw in more tourism. It’s a nasty, vicious circle that we love! These organizations employ artist, designers, engineers, construction companies, architects, florists, photographers, and more. Those companies and individuals employed help to produce events and products that draw people to theater, festivals, fairs, museums, and more. And guess what? A lot of the people who attend these things come from out of town. They stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, rent cars, take the bus . . . the list goes on, but most of the money spent in this city stays in this city.

And it’s a fact that’s been proven by study after study that arts and culture tourists stay about twice as long and spend twice as much as any other tourists! In San Diego in 2011, arts tourists stayed an average of 3.8 days vs. 1.8 for all others, and they spent an average of $561 per trip as opposed to $235 for all others!

These tourists who stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, rent our cars, and use our transit systems are generating jobs by bringing an extra customer base to our local businesses. See how tourism and jobs are linked?

Oh yeah, and remember where the money for the OSP comes from? That’s right, taxes on those very tourists that the arts and culture organizations are attracting.

Student dancers

But money aside, perhaps the most important more in the list is more education. Each and every organization that receives funding from the OSP provides education and outreach to not only the city of San Diego, but the entire county! California Ballet Company alone serves countless schools and community organizations each year! We bring children and families to the theater for free or very low-cost to see dress rehearsals of our productions, we bring dancers into schools and libraries to provide lecture-demonstrations, we offer complimentary tickets to organizations and schools who are trying to raise funds. And that’s just our company! When you look at all of the organizations that receive funding from the OSP, and you consider how different they all are, just think about the kind of arts and culture education our city is receiving for actually very little money.

These education and outreach programs are funded in part by the money San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture makes available to the organizations. So, sure, that money could be used to pay for firemen and police, it could be used to renovate civic centers, it could be used to fill in potholes. But consider that an arts-rich education has been proven to improve children’s performance in mathematics and sciences. It has been proven to improve scores on standardized tests. It has been proven to increase follow-through and completion of a higher education. Without the arts-rich education that organizations like our own provide, we might not have the educated people to man the fire and police stations, where would the civil engineers be to rebuild our civic centers, and who would be running the construction companies that maintain our roads?

It’s all connected.

Remember how important the arts are to a thriving community. However, don’t leave it to the government to support them. Buy tickets. Visit museums. Become association members by donating to these organizations. As little as $50 adds up when everyone starts doing their parts. And really, what can $50 buy you? A nice meal or a few frilly coffees?

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Wouldn’t you rather educate your children and take in a ballet or Broadway show?

It all comes down to more involvement in the arts.

To become a pARTner in the arts, or find out how you can support California Ballet Company, CLICK HERE!

Keep supporting the arts and culture of your city, and we’ll see you at the ballet!


2 Responses to “The Arts’ Influence in San Diego”

  1. TR/PR Says:

    Bravo! Well said!

  2. Alan Ziter Says:

    Very nicely done! Thanks for sharing this important information with the community.

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