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Released February 12, 2003


HATTIESBURG - Twenty-two cultural, college and university arts programs pumped nearly $2 million directly into the Hattiesburg-area economy during the past year and generated a secondary financial impact of more than three times that amount.

According to a 2002 study completed by The University of Southern Mississippi's College of the Arts and the university's Center for Community and Economic Development, nine nonprofit cultural organizations and 13 cultural outreach programs of Southern Miss and William Carey College reported budgets totaling $2,009,055 for the year. The two institutions of higher learning accounted for $1,332,054 of the total budgets.

"Of the more than $2 million annual budgets, $1,967,691 was spent in the Hattiesburg Metropolitan Area," said the report, titled Economic Impact of the Arts 2002. "A secondary economic impact... amounted to $6,316,288."

The secondary economic impact, according to the study, was based on a conservative estimate that the initial direct spending stimulated an additional 3.21 turnover ratio of dollars when applied to the portion of the budgets spent within the Hattiesburg regional economy. Extensions of the raw data were based on ratios from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"I'm pleased our study can show the importance of the link between the arts and our local economy," said William B. Sisson, director of the Southern Miss-based center. "This study illustrates not only the social importance of the arts, but also the economic role of the arts to our community."

The results of the study, initiated last July, were announced at a breakfast gathering of members of the Area Development Partnership Feb. 7 at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg. The results were compiled and published through a collaborative effort between the Southern Miss center and College of the Arts. Partners for the Arts, a support organization for the college, also sponsored publication of the study.Data gathered from 22 arts organizations in the Hattiesburg area showed the combined organizations had 36 full-time and 56 part-time employees (a total of 55 equivalent full-time workers) and annual audiences of more than 140,000 people.

The various visual and performing arts programs attract 78 percent of their audiences from the two-county region – Forrest and Lamar counties – and 22 percent from outside the area, according to the report. Residents of the two counties – with a combined population of 111,674 – attend an average of 1.26 cultural events per resident annually. According to a 1997 survey by Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization based in Washington, D.C., national audiences spend an average of $21 – over and beyond the price of a ticket – for meals, transportation, entertainment, etc.

"This study validates what we've always known in the arts community, but couldn't back up with statistical analysis," said Dr. Mary Ann Stringer, dean of the Southern Miss College of the Arts, an institution that produces more than 300 arts events per year alone. "Vital, energetic arts programs bring different things to a community—one of these is dollars."

Using a model developed by the National Endowment for the Arts, questionnaires developed by the Southern Miss Center for Community and Economic Development were distributed to cultural organizations in the area. A separate questionnaire was sent to the university and William Carey College, specifically seeking information on outreach programs only.

The community organizations involved in the study included the Hattiesburg Arts Council, the Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera Association, the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association, Just Over the Rainbow Theatre, the Saenger Theatre, and Partners for the Arts, to name a few.

"The Hattiesburg Arts Council is grateful to the College of the Arts, and to the Center for Community and Economic Development for including the community arts organizations in this important study," said Patti Hall, council director. "I am pleased to have a document that we can use to share the importance of the arts and their substantial contribution to the local community.

"The arts community appreciates its supporters and patrons of the arts in our area. They are the reason for this success," she added.

At Southern Miss, some of the programs used for data collection included university bands, symphony, choral activities, theater seasons, Repertory Dance Company, percussion, jazz and the Southern Miss Museum of Art.

William Carey programs included statistics gathered from the Lucile Parker Gallery, the Winters School of Music, and the Department of Theatre and Communications.

"A city's culture defines the community," Sisson told ADP members. "The central truth has not been lost on economic development professionals and the rest of corporate America. Placing importance on the arts is a calculated business decision, such as relocating a corporate headquarters.

"But in the real world, where employees raise families, clients are entertained, and executives are wooed, the arts have a tremendous effect on the image a city projects and, by extension, the business a city does," he maintained.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM