MN economist calculates big bang for arts bucks

Today in the commentary section of, economist Ann Markusen argues that hammering education with disproportionate budget cuts is a poor economic choice, because artists contribue significant revenue to the state economy. Here’s an excerpt:

Take arts program graduates, for example. New evidence from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) refutes the “starving artist” stereotype. Of 13,600 graduates from 154 U.S. public and private college arts programs, conservatories and arts high schools — including two in Minnesota — 81 percent found jobs soon after graduation. Their current unemployment rates (6 percent) are substantially below the national average, and their job satisfaction levels are very high.

Artists and designers are core employees in our cultural industries. Minnesota’s nationally prominent publishing, advertising and architecture firms, for instance, rely heavily on the creativity and training of the state’s arts grads. More than 10 percent of the advertising industry’s workforce consists of visual artists, writers and designers who provide the crucial creative content. Minnesota arts also create jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors. Think of the cast and crew that University of Minnesota English grad Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” has supported for decades, and the income the show has brought back to Minnesota.

Markusen goes on to talk about how artists contribute to the productivity of non-arts industries, too. She says arts grads are key to fueling the 21st century economy, because many of them are entrepreneurs who will start up their own businesses, and may eventually create jobs for others.

You can read the full commentary here.


Ann Markusen is director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a SNAAP National Advisory Board member. (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)

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