Riversong Music Festial

RiverSong Music Festival is among the many arts and cultural events that draws almost 62,000 attendees annually to Hutchinson. The economic impact of the attendees’ spending is $1.2 million.

We always knew Hutchinson was an “artsy” town. Now there are statistics to back it up.

A new report from Minnesota Citizens for the Arts shows 15 of our community’s arts organizations offer activities that annually draw about 62,000 people. That participation in these activities, converted into dollars, results in an economic impact of $1.2 million. And those 15 arts and cultural organizations — they spend another $1 million, which adds up to a total impact of $2.2 million in Hutchinson.

The report also summarizes spending by McLeod County’s 97 full-time and 308 part-time artists and “creative workers.” The amount surpasses $1.6 million on such things as art supplies and studio rental.

All this information gives us, for the first time, significant insights into Hutchinson’s lively, thriving arts scene. Our city’s founders, the Singing Hutchinson Brothers — widely considered the most popular performing artists of their time — would be proud.

Of the 15 counties recently studied by the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, McLeod measured eighth in population but ranked second in creative worker density, with 39 creative jobs for every 1,000 jobs overall.

One more number before we explore the long-range significance of this activity: More than $200,000 in local and state government revenue is collected from the work of these creative workers. In other words, they contribute significantly to the local tax base.

Building up the tax base is important for all of us who want our taxes to stay under control. The arts are doing their part. The findings suggest the city of Hutchinson’s annual $15,000 investment in Public Arts Commission and $15,000 in the Hutchinson Center for the Arts is money well spent.

The dividends of arts spending are endless. That $2.2 million is just one part of the story.

When visitors come to Hutchinson for a play or concert, for example, they might fill up their gas tank at Casey’s, stop at McCormick’s or Zella’s for dinner, and visit Landy Lodge with friends afterward. Some arts attendees come from out of town and end up spending the night here and shopping at our stores during their stay.

That’s money spent here, paying local wages and taxes.

The report gives us what Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President Mary Hodson calls “measurable information.”

“This makes decision-making easier when we look at the Downtown Revitalization Plan, and adding arts amenities,” Ms. Hodson told a Leader reporter. “By easier, I mean people who have not understood the impact can now feel better about making investments in the arts.”

Remember the small controversy surrounding the “wayfinding” sign investment that resulted in the placement of attractive signs in front our the city’s landmarks and Luce Line State Trail two summers ago? This report suggests that investments such as those have value for visitors and the city’s overall bottom line.

The same goes for the investment of the police department’s time for events such as RiverSong and the Hutchinson Arts and Crafts Festival.

And how about repairs made to the city-owned Episcopal Church, which is a frequent venue for the performing arts and receives all kinds of support from Historic Hutchinson? Another wise investment.

We expect this study to be cited often to identify future incentives for investing in the arts.

Tom Wirt, who has promoted the role of the arts in this community for as long as anyone can remember, says the city’s next step should be to develop an arts and culture plan. We agree.

Mr. Wirt describes the impact of the arts and culture as “an economic powerhouse” for the city.

Smart city leaders will find ways to further capitalize on that power.