New study measures economic impact of city's creative class

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February 20, 2013
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch

A new study shows that artists are pumping $700 million into the economy every year, with most of the city's 20,000 artists clustered into Downtown zip codes.

The city's Arts and Culture director has quantified our "creative vitality index" (CVI), which measures arts-related revenue and employment.

"The creative sector is notoriously difficult to measure," wrote Gülgün Kayim; the Director of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; in the study. "And while CVI data is not complete, it does provide the city with an annual base-line measure to compare Minneapolis to metropolitan regions across the country."

Minneapolis boasts four-and-a-half times more "creative vitality" than the national average. Revenue from theater companies and dinner theaters are particularly high here — 14 times the national average. Likewise, charitable giving to the arts is unusually strong — a rate 13.5 times the national average.

The study raised a few concerns, however. In a city known for its architects — the number here is four times the national average —architectural occupations shrank sharply after the recession, dropping by 20 percent in the last 10 years and 10 percent in the last three years.

The number of dancers is also shrinking.

"The decline in dancers (the second-fastest declining occupational group), may strike some as a surprise for a city that has a renowned dance community," states the study. "This raises a red flag, especially because dancers are very densely located in Minneapolis, at 5 times the concentration of the national average."

The top creative occupation in Minneapolis is photography, posting 2,851 photographers. Musicians and singers were next (2,346), followed by writers and authors (2,151).

Orin Rutchick, founder of the Mpls Photo Center, said he wasn't surprised by the high number of photographers. Although full-time photographers are rare, as the industry was hard hit by the recession, he said photography is a common side business.

"It's the most accessible visual art form available today," he said. "Probably the most important factor to this increase in photography has been the democratization of photography through the advent of the digital camera. ... Because photography is so prevalent in society today, with smart phones and everything else, it gives people a much greater interest in photography."

Photographers are on a list of growing occupations, along with fashion designers (+29 percent) and agents (+43 percent). The city's shrinking arts occupations include floral designers (-29 percent), dancers (-25 percent), and architects (-19 percent).