Ohio lags behind nation in rebound of arts, culture economy, new data shows

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

2021 statistics show gains but challenges remain in COVID-19 recovery.

The contributions of arts and culture to Ohio’s economy grew 9.4% in 2021 after cratering during the first year of the pandemic, according to new federal data that shows Ohio lags behind the national average in reviving its arts sectors.

Leaders of prominent local arts groups say they are encouraged by the number of patrons returning to shows and exhibits, but they are still shy of pre-pandemic numbers and appeal to the community to continue helping rebuild Dayton’s arts and cultural scene.

“We often say Dayton doesn’t have mountains and oceans, but we have great arts and parks,” said Michael Roediger, director and CEO of the Dayton Art Institute. “The community stood by us during the pandemic, and we expect that it will continue to as we come out of the pandemic and navigate a possible recession.”

The arts and culture economy includes theater, music, writing, visual arts, design, museums, historic sites, natural parks and more in addition to supporting industries such as broadcasting, filmmaking and publishing.

The new study released March 15 was produced jointly by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. It evaluated each state’s arts and cultural industries, their growth rate, employment, compensation of employees and national rankings among other specialties.

The study found:

- Arts and culture industries employed 158,206 Ohioans in 2021, totaling $11 billion in compensation.

- The economic output of Ohio’s arts and culture sectors ranked 11th in the nation, and the growth of this measure ranked 35th. Since 2020, the sector’s output has grown 9.4% in Ohio, compared with an increase of 14.4% for the nation.

- In 2021, Ohio ranked 8th among all states in arts and culture employment and 36th among all states in employment growth in this sector. Since 2020, arts and culture employment has grown 3.5% in Ohio, compared with an increase of 5% for the nation.

- In 2021, Ohio ranked 11th among all states in arts and culture compensation and 32nd among all states in compensation growth in these sectors. Since 2020, arts and culture compensation has grown 8.5% in Ohio, compared with an increase of 11.3% for the nation.

- Average compensation per wage-and-salary job in Ohio’s arts and culture industries was $69,255 in 2021, compared with $72,771 for all salaried jobs in the state.

The analysis shows that while the total nationwide economic value added by arts and cultural industries increased by 13.7% from 2020-2021, groups such as independent artists (as an industry), performing arts organizations such as theater, dance and opera companies, and arts-related construction among other entities did not return to pre-pandemic levels.

However, the overall arts economy in 2021 accounted for 4.4% of gross domestic product, or $1.02 trillion, considered a new high-water mark.

“The data reflect what many artists and arts professionals experienced in 2021 — a partial rebound and ongoing recovery, thanks to the resilience of the many Ohioans working in the arts,” said Donna Collins, executive director of the Ohio Arts Council.

“Although the pandemic negatively impacted our sector, among the worst affected in terms of economic loss and unemployment, we persevered, thanks in large part to one-time funding with bipartisan support at all levels of government. Work remains to return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity, but the data show just how important and integral the arts and culture sector is to a strong, vibrant economy and society,” she said.

‘A lot has changed’

Last summer at Dayton’s Live 2021-2022 Annual Meeting, the organization reported a more than $25 million economic impact on the Greater Dayton region, bringing the equivalent of 776 full-time jobs to downtown Dayton. But assessing 2021 data, the organization acknowledges the hurdles that took place at the time, especially growing concerns surrounding the Omicron variant.

“We’ve had a lot of recovery in the arts but it’s also been an uneven recovery,” said Ty Sutton, President and CEO of Dayton Live. “It’s been ups and downs and starts and stops. Late 2021 was when we thought everything was great — our recovery was beginning to start for the first time — but then there was Omicron and everything started to slow down. But we still put on ‘Hamilton’ during the height of the Omicron wave and made it through without having to cancel performances.”



At the start of the pandemic, Sutton says Dayton Live laid off 90% of its workforce. He says they are still in the process of rehiring to return to “full strength,” particularly its educational and development staff. He also noted that only within the last four to five months has there been a feeling within the organization of a return to normalcy regarding patron behavior and buying habits.

“A lot has changed and, in some ways, we’re never going back,” said Sutton. “Patrons are buying later and they’re making decisions later. The pandemic caused a lot of us not to plan things in advance in case (an event) wouldn’t happen. So, we have had to change our advertising habits.”

He said it has been a slower return for older audiences, but they are returning.

“We have had tremendous community support,” Sutton said. “I’ve had people who own restaurants and bars tell us about the effect of being open on a Tuesday night with 2,500 or 3,000 people coming downtown when we have multiple shows going on. It makes a world of difference. For a lot of them, it’s been the difference between sort of making it and doing better.”

‘Commit to keeping the arts strong’’

Roediger said the Dayton Art Institute has seen a significant rebound in the community’s desire to return to the museum after the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Although Ohio is a bit behind other states, I am encouraged by the return of our audience, members and donors,” said Roediger. “We are seeing in the community and specifically at the Dayton Art Institute an excitement and return to the arts.”

“When we were able to reopen for a short while during the start of pandemic, we were only at 30 percent — which was in line with the national average for most fine art museums — of our annual attendance of nearly 125,000. Today, we are at 83 percent, and thrilled to see people returning to the museum, buying memberships and supporting our exhibitions and signature events,” he said.



Roediger says the DAI continues to monitor the volatility of the stock market and the likelihood of a recession. However, as a nonprofit relying on support of donors, sponsors, foundations and members, the organization trusts in the community’s goodwill to keep them financially secure and sustainable for future generations.

He also notes the DAI, which will host its 66th anniversary Art Ball fundraising gala on June 10, had nearly a $10 million impact on the community pre-pandemic.

“We need everyone to commit to keeping the arts strong in the Dayton region,” said Roediger. “Dayton is fortunate to have such a rich arts community and we are a significant draw for new executive talent and young professionals.”

‘People are coming back’

The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance reports at the end of its 2021-2022 season, audiences returned to 52% of pre-pandemic levels. Current statistics stand at 70%. Organizers are embracing the trend as a hopeful guide to build upon, especially in attracting broader demographics and increasing ticket sales.

“People are coming back,” said Patrick Nugent, president and CEO of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. “Our fundamental conviction is that the arts are for everyone. Our driving purpose is to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to fall in love with the performing arts.”

Nugent said their $5 ticket program has sold about 5,000 tickets in the last 18 months.

“I have also watched the average age of the audience plummet and watched its diversity broaden,” he said. “We want to continue those trends.”



Nugent also says he’d like to see a greater push from the business community to boost the arts across the region.

“I would like business and government to understand that the arts are indispensable to the economic success of our state, region and city,” he said. “We value the support we receive from the business community but the very prosperous business community as it exists in the Dayton region now has not come anywhere near catching up to the support that the arts received from the major employers that closed or left the region 20 or 30 years ago. But they’re still deriving the benefit. We would like to help businesses get much more involved in the support of the arts in Dayton.”

The inconsistent recovery of the arts is concerning but Sutton hopes downtown Dayton in particular doesn’t overlook the need for arts and culture to keep the recovery going. Meanwhile, he’s determined to not lose sight of a higher goal which not only applies to Dayton Live but all arts groups across the region.

“People want to see a show and have a good time,” he said. “We should be in the business of bringing joy to people, something that lifts their soul. We have to be in the business of delivering a great experience. And there’s no substitute for the live experience whether it’s seeing a great piece of art or spending time in a theater.”

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