Economic Impact of the Arts
in Pinellas County
. . .
Those of us who call Pinellas County home have witnessed firsthand the rapidly increasing influence of the arts in our communities.
We have come to appreciate that the arts are not only a major influence on our quality of life and community identity – but a real and increasingly significant driver of economic growth and development.
Just recently, a major study known as The Arts & Economic Prosperity Survey (AEP6), was released by Americans for the Arts, a national leader in arts advocacy and data gathering. The survey comprehensively outlines the economic impact of arts and culture nonprofits for 2022 – not only for the nation as a whole, but for individual counties like Pinellas, and participating arts districts.
It’s the sixth and latest arts survey conducted over the past three decades, and the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind.
We’re glad to share what this study reflects about the economic impact of arts nonprofits throughout Pinellas County, and to highlight some special Pinellas arts endeavors.
Creative Pinellas, the nonprofit arts advocacy organization for Pinellas County, worked in collaboration with Americans for the Arts by supporting, facilitating, and providing primary funding for the research conducted – not just county-wide, but for the participating cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Safety Harbor, Largo and Tarpon Springs.
You can read 1-page summaries and the full reports for
These five cities subsidized and provided survey and economic data that facilitated each city’s individual results, and impacted Pinellas County’s results as a whole.
It is important to note that the overall County results reflect the economic impact of arts and culture nonprofits in all Pinellas cities and communities.
“Those of us who live in or visit Pinellas County are well aware of the vibrancy of the artists and the arts community here,” says Barbara St. Clair, CEO of Creative Pinellas, the report’s sponsoring organization. “Less transparent, perhaps, is how much they contribute to the economy. According to Pinellas County Economic Development, the Creative Industry as a whole in Pinellas generates about 2 billion dollars in economic impact.
“What is great about this research study is that it hones in specifically on arts nonprofits, and demonstrates how much of a role they play in the economic wellbeing of our community. This study puts it right out there in black and white. The arts are a net contributor. And that is a really good thing to know.”
Data provided by AEP6 on the economic impact of the arts in Pinellas County are, in a word, remarkable.
Even more so when you keep in mind that these results apply only to nonprofits. If you consider the further contribution of private galleries, working artists and for-profit arts concerns, the economic impact of the arts is even greater.
Here are some key takeaways broken down directly from the Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6) economic and social impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry.
The arts support economic growth
In Pinellas County, the arts sector generated $294.7 million in economic activity during 2022 — $126.8 million in spending by arts and culture organizations and an additional $167.9 million in event-related expenditures by their audiences.
That economic activity supported 4,528 jobs, provided $185.3 million in personal income to residents, and generated $58.9 million in tax revenue to local, state and federal governments.
That $294.7 million in economic impact represents an approximately $50 million increase (approximately 20%) over the previous study done in 2015.
This is especially significant because of the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic on the arts nationwide.
In many communities studied around the U.S. there was a decrease in economic impact, some up to 73%. But the economic impact of the arts in Pinellas significantly exceeds the national average.
Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are businesses
They employ people locally, purchase supplies and services from nearby businesses, and engage in the marketing and promotion of their cities and regions.
Their very act of doing business — creating, presenting, exhibiting, engaging — has a positive economic impact and improves community well-being.
In Pinellas County, nonprofit arts and culture organizations spent an estimated $126.8 million – which supported 1,919 jobs and generated $30.3 million in local, state and federal government revenue.
Arts and culture drives commerce to other local businesses
When people attend a cultural event, they often make an outing of it — dining at a restaurant, paying for parking or public transportation, enjoying dessert after the show, and returning home to pay for child or pet care.
In Pinellas County, arts attendees spend $35.62 per person per event, beyond the cost of admission. These dollars represent vital income for local merchants and added value that few industries can compete with.
A vibrant arts and culture community keeps local residents — and their discretionary dollars — in the community
When attendees were asked what they would have done if the event where they took this survey hadn’t been available, 62.2% who live in Pinellas County said they would have “traveled to a different community to attend a similar arts or cultural activity.”
Arts and culture organizations contribute to community pride in Pinellas County
86.6% of arts and culture attendees agree that the activity or venue where they took the survey “is inspiring a sense of pride in this neighborhood or community.”
83.2% agree that “I would feel a great sense of loss if this activity or venue were no longer available.” 78.5% agree that the venue or facility they were visiting is “an important pillar for me within my community.”
One of the most intriguing conclusions of the survey was about tourists to Pinellas County. The results confirm that Pinellas County is, in fact, a true arts destination – not just a collateral stop on the way to the beach.
“Arts and culture strengthens the visitor economy. In Pinellas County, 34.4% of arts attendees are nonlocal visitors who traveled from outside Pinellas County. They spend an average of $46.37 (not including dining, hotel stays and other economic impacts.)
“Additionally, 84.0% of nonlocal attendees reported that the primary purpose of their visit was specifically to attend the performance, event, exhibit, venue or facility” where they took a survey.
That means that many visitors to Pinellas County are coming for the arts, as well as the beaches.
Here are just a few of the arts events and endeavors in Pinellas cities participating in the AEP6 that greatly contribute to making Pinellas County an arts destination.
St. Petersburg’s arts community has exponentially expanded in recent years. Supported by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, events like the SHINE Mural Festival have literally changed the look of the cityscape and brought artists and visitors from all over the country and the world.
World class museums like the Dalí and Museum of Fine Arts bring visitors from far and wide. A plethora of arts events and venues in St. Pete have impacted and improved the quality of life for residents and the visitor experience.
Clearwater is much more than a gorgeous beach destination. It’s also a cultural center and – for over four decades – home of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday.
This much lauded annual concert event (held this year on October 17-20) is a multi-day music fest that attracts some of the biggest stars of the music industry and thousands of fans from all over the world who visit just to experience it.
Largo, another beautiful mid-county city, can boast that it is the location of one of the most frequently visited venues in Pinellas County. The Pinewood Cultural Park is home to not one, but three popular destinations.
The Florida Botanical Gardens welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to explore over 100 acres of Florida flora and fauna. The garden’s Holiday Lights event is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the County and beyond.
Heritage Village is also in the park, bringing visitors back to Florida’s historical past with authentic buildings, artifacts, and educational tours and events.
Creative Pinellas, the County’s arts agency, is home to an expansive gallery, celebrating and exhibiting a wide range of arts and highlighting the work of Pinellas County artists.
The Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center (SHAMC) stands as the whimsical, yet vital, heart of the Safety Harbor cultural community. Their mission “to promote knowledge of and education in the fine arts, the visual arts, and the performing arts” informs the prolific arts programming throughout this charming city – attracting local, regional, national and worldwide visitors.
Tarpon Springs, home of the sponge docks, is known as the Greek cultural center of the region – and home to some of the most impressive arts offerings you’ll see in Pinellas County.
The Leepa Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College houses a large collection of important modern and contemporary art – not just by Abraham Rattner and Allen Leepa, but by Picasso, Chagall, Ernst and many more. They host frequent special exhibitions, events and educational opportunities, and an online portal that shares these collections with the world.
Other noteworthy County communities, not individually surveyed, include Dunedin, home of the amazing Dunedin Fine Art Center and Gulfport, an eclectic community of artists and arts-related businesses and events, and the active and growing community of artists in Pinellas Park.
These examples only scratch the surface, but all of these communities and their commitment to the arts meaningfully contribute to our cultural life – and the growing economic impact of the arts on Pinellas County.
In the next few weeks, Creative Pinellas will be publishing information for the individual arts districts who participated in this research project, in addition to County information.
We will also be launching a customized arts calculator for Pinellas County based on the AEP6 results, that will enable any Pinellas nonprofit to determine the economic impact of their activities and events.
In early 2024, Creative Pinellas has invited Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research for Americans for the Arts, to join us for a public meeting (date to be determined) to discuss the results and impact of the AEP6 research study for Pinellas County.
At that meeting we will dive more deeply into the results, what they mean, and how they can help us create future arts strategies, improve arts advocacy, and create a county-wide Cultural Plan that maximizes the full potential of the data – and points the way forward.
Here’s what we know for sure from these results – the arts scene throughout Pinellas County is a lot more than its positive perception.
Continued rapid growth in the arts and culture sector has become a true driver of economic growth, employment, tourism and pride. The potential is unlimited!