By Lara Smith, Managing Director of Dad’s Garage
What surprises a lot of people about Dad’s Garage—an Atlanta home for improv and scripted comedy theatre—is that we run much like any other business in town. We have budgets, meetings, strategic planning, and all the other boardroom business just like you. Perhaps the difference is that at Dad’s Garage we spend a lot of time laughing (which is something we help other businesses do through our corporate programs). Often, the biggest surprise of all is how much time and energy we invest in our local government. Like any small business, it pays to be on good terms with our local representatives, neighborhood councils, and other local entities. Our mission includes transforming the community, after all!
With so many demands on their attention, getting government officials to listen to arts organizations can be a challenge. Yes, politicians like the culture and vibrancy we add to our local community; however, those intangible benefits can be hard to quantify when it comes time to make a city budget. When our local city council person needs to defend our value to the community, we want them armed with hard data about the impact of the arts. Furthermore, we believe it’s crucial for politicians to understand the economic impact of the arts in their districts, and why we are as important as any other local business.
In District 2, where we are located, Dad’s Garage partnered with nine other arts and culture nonprofits to give our local leaders information about our impact. Collectively our organizations bring in over 820,000 people per year to events in the district. Between each organization’s spending and the attendees pre- and post-event spending, we drive just over $50 million in revenue into the district. We employ 888 full time equivalent people and the spending of our patrons employs another 739, bringing our total FTE employees in the district up to 1,627. Our spending, coupled with our patrons’ spending, generates just under $40 million in resident household income and just under $2.5 million in local government revenue. All of these numbers were arrived at through the Arts and Economic Property 5 Calculator created specifically for Atlanta by the Americans for the Arts. You can read the full report here.
Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that the arts are a significant part of the local economy. We want people to support us for the value of the artistic work we do, because they trust in our artistic quality and know we provide an exceptional experience. But the idea of “value” may have different connotations for many people — especially politicians who support us through funding and policy. It’s vital that we arm them with meaningful data so they understand our impact and needs as a sector in the local economy.
The nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $604.5 million industry in the City of Atlanta. This spending—$371.9 million by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and an additional $232.6 million in event-related spending by their audiences—supports 19,392 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $54.4 million in local and state government revenue (Arts & Economic Prosperity V, June 2017). If all of the leaders in our arts and nonprofit industry were to discuss this data with local politicians, we could increase the public support we receive.
There’s a lot of talk about making the arts a more vital and vibrant part of Atlanta—truthfully, it already is. We just need to arm current and potential advocates with data and tools to help us prove it.
Featured image (top): August 3, 2013 Atlanta – Lain Shakespeare (left) talks with Kevin Gillese and Amelia Lerner during the Bringing Down the House Party at Dad’s Garage in Atlanta on Saturday, August 3, 2013. Close to 400 people, including actors, both past and present, stage and production crew members, directors, founders and fans attended the party as they said goodbye to the theater company’s old space off of Elizabeth Street. Dad’s Garage moves to 7 Stages Theatre in Little 5 Points and start their new production Aug. 10. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL