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What do cities spend on arts and culture?

Ellen Foreman

The City of Durango, Colorado is looking for information on the percentage of budget dedicated to arts and culture in similar sized cities. The city population of Durango is about 17,000 and our county population is just over 50,000.


Leslie Beauregard

The City of Charlottesville has a population of about 45K and a total GF budget of $156M. For education and the arts, we spend about $1.3M to outside and nonprofit agencies. We also budget about $110K for festivals and community events. And we budget $25K a year to cover our Art in Place contract with that nonprofit.
Hope this helps.

Matthew Lawless

Matthew Lawless

And Leslie's too modest about the excellent results of this investment. That City funding interacts with university efforts and a strong philanthropic community to make for a great, vibrant scene. The dedicated public funds are significant and meaningful, but Durango's assessment could also include in-kind support and partnership efforts. Are city parks readily available for performances and installations? How do the police consider busking and graffiti? How does zoning treat home occupations and studio uses? When budget space is limited, these kinds of operational questions can still make a big difference.

Gerald Young

ICMA Insights has not collected figures on arts and culture, as we’ve tried to focus on the core services like police, fire, road and park maintenance, and internal services (IT, HR, fleet) that tend to be most comparable.

In researching this issue further, the city may want to consider the breakout categories that could be a part of this larger topic. For instance, what revenue sources do jurisdictions dedicate to the arts? In growing communities, there may be a visual arts component included in development fees (e.g., in Cerritos and Indio, California). In others, there may be a public/private partnership or non-profit approach (Greer, South Carolina partially supports its arts council via sponsorships). As for performing arts, those activities may be rolled into community center or special events budgeting.

Regardless, to achieve more meaningful comparisons, I would recommend considering the actual per capita expenditures for those programs, rather than percentage of budget, as percentages would vary considerably in communities served by multiple separate agencies (e.g., park or fire districts, housing authorities, libraries provided by the county, etc.).

Carmen Cody

I live in Olympia, WA, which has a population of about 48,000. The city designates $1 per person and one percent of major City construction projects.

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9 Jul 15
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