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Study: Arts pack an economic punch

The arts took center stage Friday at the Sheldon Theatre, but the audience wasn’t there for a play or concert.

Seated on stage — as preparations for the Fall Festival of the Arts were ongoing just outside — locals heard the highlights of a report that says arts and culture activities make a significant impact on the local economy.

A study by Minnesota Citizens for the Arts showed that the nonprofit arts and culture sector generates more than $2.2 million in total economic impact annually in the Red Wing area. The state economic impact is about $1.2 billion, according to the study.

Local organizations part of the research were the Universal Music Center, Anderson Center, city arts and culture programs, Goodhue County Historical Society, Picaresque II, Red Dragonfly Press, Red Wing Arts Association, SoundStrings and the Sheldon Theatre.

These organizations support the equivalent of 66 full-time jobs, the report showed.

Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, said the study — conducted statewide, along with a handful of local snapshots — stemmed from a need to get some basic data to show the impact of arts and culture organizations. The numbers help arts organizations and cities show the need for funding such programs, she said.

One key detail was the fact that visitors — which made up about 20 percent of the region’s attendees — who come to town for specific arts and culture events spend more money in town, on things like gasoline, lodging and food.

“This is one of the ways you can bring energy into town and money into town,” Smith said.

Port Authority Executive Director Randy Olson said the arts community and its impact is part of developing Red Wing’s reputation and brand.

Red Wing Arts Association Executive Director Dan Guida used this weekend’s festival as an example of an event that benefits the community and artists alike, and spurs other activities.

“The economic impact of the arts, just of this weekend, is huge,” he said. “It’s really nice to know that the efforts of these arts organizations have an economic impact as well as a quality-of-life impact on our community.”

More details and the full report are available at

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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