The Arts Mean Business…Literally!
The Arts Mean Business in Southwest Florida! “Season” in Southwest Florida can mean many things – typically an increase in visitors, business, and traffic. Lee County serves as a gateway in Southwest Florida, connecting residents and visitors from the Tampa Bay area to Naples and the Everglades. Ecotourism, pristine beaches and waterways, arts and culture – all can be found within Lee County and the surrounding areas. With an influx of seasonal residents local business owners enjoy increased patronage and success. A unique factor in Southwest Florida is the large number of nonprofit organizations and philanthropic individuals. Many of our seasonal visitors were successful in their careers and seek to give back to their community in their retirement. They generously give of their time as volunteers and of their treasures as patrons and donors.
One particular industry that is heavily dependent on seasonal tourism is the arts. But do you know the role the arts play in tourism and the local economy? In 2010, the Americans for the Arts partnered with the Lee County Alliance for the Arts to publish the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study. According to this national economic impact study, Lee County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $68.3 million in annual economic activity. This supported 2,038 full-time equivalent jobs and generated $9.4 million in local and state government revenues. These numbers prove that the arts mean business!
Lee County nonprofit arts organizations can help maximize tourism dollars and create a strong cultural landscape for residents and visitors alike. There are many benefits to being associated with a nonprofit, especially an arts organization. Volunteers make up a large core of workers that are responsible for helping the nonprofit function and fulfill their mission. Patrons who support these organizations ensure that their work continues in the present while donors ensure the legacy of the organization (in addition to various tax benefits that come from charitable giving).
One of the leading arts organizations in the area is the Lee County Alliance for the Arts. Located on McGregor Boulevard, the Alliance is the state designated arts agency for Lee County, designed to foster the growth of local art. A nonprofit organization, their membership includes over 50 arts and cultural organizations and houses an art gallery, theatre, studios and classrooms. Children and adults can participate in a variety of classes and workshops.
The Alliance also acts as an advocate for all the arts in Lee County. Under the direction of Executive Director Lydia Black, the Alliance consistently serves as a leader and representative to local and state government agencies. It promotes the support and advancement of art in Lee County and recognizes that when citizens, especially children, are exposed to the arts they gain fundamental life skills.
Another leading nonprofit in Fort Myers is the Florida Repertory Theatre. Located in the historic River District, Florida Rep was a cornerstone in the revitalization of Downtown Fort Myers. Now entering its Seventeenth Season, Florida Rep attracts approximately 70,000 patrons each year. Working closely with its downtown neighbors, the theatre stimulates local business. Florida Rep relies heavily on its seasonal patrons, many of whom travel from Chicago, Milwaukee, and New England. These patrons are active members of their home theatres and are happy to support similar organizations in Lee County. Through their patronage, Florida Rep is able to produce a high quality theatre experience as well as arts education for youth in the community.
The Arts for ACT gallery, also located in downtown Fort Myers, is an example of how a nonprofit arts organization uses its talents to represent a broader mission. Established to support ACT (Abuse Counseling & Treatment) the Arts for ACT gallery is part gallery and part boutique. Art lovers flock to this unique downtown gallery to view some of the finest exhibits available. A portion of proceeds and all donations go directly to support ACT’s mission of providing shelter and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It shows the kind of symbiotic relationship the arts can create locally. Owned and operated by ACT, local and national artists are given the opportunity to display their work and connect with the public, which ultimately serves an even greater good for those in need.
Residents and visitors are encouraged to seek out local nonprofit organizations. Arts and cultural institutions are especially attractive to visitors, providing a variety of services. Patrons will not only be entertained and exposed to powerful expressions of the human spirit but will also be confident in the knowledge that they are using their tourism dollars to support great work– in the theatres, in the galleries, and in the community.