Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, and Travel & Tourism

Study: ArtPrize 2013 pumped $22M into economy

Organizers say cultural benefits to community were even more significant.

February 7, 2014
| By Pat Evans |
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ArtPrize Dragon
ArtPrize drew more than 380,000 visitors to Grand Rapids last year, according to an economic impact study performed on the annual event. Photo by Johnny Quirin

The economic impact ArtPrize has on Grand Rapids continues to grow.

A study of ArtPrize 2013 by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group showed attendance increased 20 percent over 2011.

Last year’s event brought more than $22 million into the local economy from more than 380,000 visitors, and more than 253 jobs were created.

“In just five years, ArtPrize has become a cornerstone event for the Grand Rapids economy and Michigan’s leading cultural experience,” said Scott D. Watkins, director of market and industry analysis at AEG.

“The $22.2 million in new economic activity and 253 jobs supported by ArtPrize are impressive figures, but the event’s greater value lies in its annual nature, still-growing appeal and the positive exposure that it brings the city and the state.”

In its five years, more than 2 million votes have been cast during the public art competition, with more than $500,000 worth of prizes given to artists each year.

In 2013, more than 1,500 artists from 45 states and 47 countries displayed artwork at 169 venues.

ArtPrize 2013 was featured in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, among others. The success ArtPrize has brought to Grand Rapids has garnered even more attention, this time in travel media. West Michigan was named Lonely Planet’s top destination in 2014, in large part due to ArtPrize, beaches and beer. CNN listed ArtPrize as Michigan’s must-see event in its 50 States, 50 Spots for 2014 list.

“ArtPrize has proven to be an overwhelming success for Grand Rapids and has helped to significantly elevate our profile nationally as an arts destination,” said Doug Small, president of Experience Grand Rapids.

AEG also performed a study on the event in 2011. Both studies were initiated by Experience GR and also funded by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and ArtPrize.

The report took a close look at the demographics of the audience ArtPrize brings to Grand Rapids, looking at where they’re from and what they spend.

As ArtPrize is a non-ticketed event, the 2013 numbers are conservative, according to the survey, and likely exceed 400,000 visitors from across the globe in the 19 days of the event. Only 13.3 percent indicated they were from Grand Rapids, and nearly half reported they were from outside the tri-county area. Many attendees said they also visited local shopping destinations such as farmers markets.

Of the respondents, nearly 73 percent indicated ArtPrize was their primary reason for the visit. More than 132 schools sent at least 10,000 students to tour ArtPrize.

The average length of stay was two days, according to the report, and the average spectator spent $30 a day they would not normally have spent in Grand Rapids on dining, lodging, shopping and other businesses. These purchases resulted in a little under $11 million in new spending.

According to the survey, the average income of attendees was $75,431, with those out of the area earning nearly $80,000 on average.

Other survey subjects included chain store shopping patterns, eating preferences and social media usage.

Despite only accounting for about 8 percent of attendees, the analysis indicated visitors came from 18 countries and all 50 states, with Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, California, Texas, North Carolina and New York leading the way.

“Grand Rapids is among the most innovative and forward-thinking urban communities in the United States. The AEG report confirms much of what we see during ArtPrize — its magnetic attraction for people from near and far,” said Kris Larson, president and CEO of DGRI. “ArtPrize successfully builds a stage for our downtown to perform to our community and beyond, and it sets the pace for attracting a broad and inclusive audience to downtown Grand Rapids.”

The survey also found the event has long-term intangible effects, including cultural enrichment, social capital and awareness of the region.

Although the economic impact is nice, the cultural benefits to the Grand Rapids community are even greater, said ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines.

“Healthy economic impact results are always welcome, but we are most eager to gather clues and learn lessons from this report that will make ArtPrize a great place for artists, and that will continue to shape the event and the organization’s commitment to radical ideas, unbridled creativity and freedom of expression,” Gaines said.

According to the survey, 57 percent of those attending regularly travel domestically, while 20 percent do so internationally. Out-of-towners cited greater travel numbers at 65 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Those from out of the area also were more likely to partake in fine dining than local attendees.

Ten percent of attendees indicated that collecting or buying artwork was a regular activity.

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