Art Works Blog

Culture and the Arts: Natural Partners in Maryland's Prosperity

June  12, 2012

by Christian Johansson, Maryland Secretary of Business and Economic Development


The Arts & Entertainment District Program of the Maryland State Arts Council utilizes the arts to spur revitalization in communities across the state. Twenty specially designated districts that are home to a concentration of arts businesses and events help strengthen communities by attracting customers for local retailers, restaurants, and other businesses. The photo above advertises a monthly Art Walk in the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District. Photo by Bethesda Urban Partnership

In Maryland, it’s no coincidence that our State Arts Council resides within the Department of Business and Economic Development’s (DBED) Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts. With an annual economic impact of $1 billion, the arts and creative industries are a key part of Maryland’s economic and cultural vitality that grow ever more important in the modern, global marketplace of innovation and ideas.

New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture and Design, a recent report by the National Governors Association (NGA), highlights how the arts and creative industries are spurring growth and stimulating the economy in states across the country, including Maryland.

In some states, the economic potential of the arts was realized in response to the 2007 recession, when governors called “all hands on deck” for economic recovery. In Maryland, the arts have been recognized as a significant economic driver for more than two decades. We know that the arts spur the economy, create jobs, attract tourist dollars, sustain vibrant livable communities, and nurture the confidence and imagination of our students.

So much of the progress Governor Martin O’Malley is trying to achieve for our state relates to a key theme of the NGA report: connections. While arts connect differently with the unique resources of each state, they have the universal tendency to revitalize and spark new collaborations. Underused or out-of-use spaces, maturing industries, and even school curricula can benefit from the arts. For example, Maryland’s Arts & Entertainment Districts Program has enlivened 20 unique localities across the state and our tourism industry is supported by a rich arts and cultural infrastructure that generates countless festivals, exhibits, and other attractive events. Arts education gives Maryland educators a hands-on way to engage students in core STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, which enhances education for learners of all types. It’s all about connections.

We know that arts-infused places are more vibrant. But when I meet with the governor or visit the Maryland General Assembly each year to explain why the arts are an important part of Maryland’s economic portfolio, the numbers make the case. Each year, the Maryland State Arts Council runs an economic impact report, the most recent of which states that annually, the arts in Maryland generate: $36.5 million in state and local tax revenue; an overall payroll of more than $385 million; and a total economic impact of $1 billion.

As Maryland’s arts-focused legislation, policy, and programming have matured, we’ve had the opportunity to examine outcomes, review numbers, and, in turn, direct our public investment in the arts and creative industries toward strategies that have proven economic results.

Television and film productions are flocking to Maryland because Governor O’Malley knew that we were in a strong position to leverage our geographic and location diversity and proximity to DC, and supported legislation that increased financial incentives for production companies to film in Maryland. Consequently, four major productions are located in Maryland, including the new Netflix series House of Cards, HBO’s VEEP, and two independent films, which are projected to have a total statewide impact of more than 5,000 local hires and $180 million.

Similarly, Maryland’s Arts & Entertainment (A&E) Districts Program (which is featured in the NGA report) utilizes tax incentives to encourage artists, arts organizations, and other creative enterprises to locate in targeted areas. The program could be described as the economists’ version of “creative placemaking,” a process that can be defined as strategically reshaping the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city or region around arts and cultural activities.

Since 2001, Maryland’s A&E District Program has empowered rural, suburban, and metropolitan localities with a set of financial incentives to encourage artists, arts organizations, and other creative enterprises to locate in targeted areas. As the program enters its second decade, it boasts 20 unique districts comprising a range of distinctive destinations across the state. Within these districts, arts, culture, and entertainment have become the catalyst for community involvement, tourist attraction, and neighborhood revitalization.

This year, Maryland became the first state in the country to report on the economic impact of a statewide A&E district program. This report confirmed that A&E Districts are working for Maryland and supported, between FY 2008-2010, an annual average of: more than 1,600 direct, indirect and induced jobs; $49.8 million in wages; and $148 million in economic impact.

Across Maryland, the arts are at work in exciting new ways that benefit students, communities, small business owners, tourists, residents, and the overall wealth of our state. From winning high budget TV and film productions to revitalizing communities, infusing the arts into education, boosting tourism, and more, under Governor O’Malley’s leadership in Maryland, we have taken the message to heart: the arts are a powerful partner.





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