Dubuque to participate in study to determine arts & culture impact on local economy

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) – Dubuque city officials have decided to take part in a study by the American for the Arts organization to figure out the impact of arts and culture in the local economy.

Jenni Petersen-Brant, the city’s arts and cultural affairs coordinator, said Dubuque had already participated in the Arts and Economic Prosperity VI Study back in 2012.

”At that time, we had found that the results from that study revealed we had $47.2 million worth of economic activity every year through arts and culture activities in the city of Dubuque,” she mentioned.

Petersen-Brant said they want to update those numbers, which she is certain have increased over the past nine years.

”We have seen redevelopment of places like the Riverfront and the historic Millwork District that we know are all benefiting from the arts and cultural activities that happen in the city,” she added.

Results from the study will help city officials decide what programs and grants to invest in to continue promoting the arts.

“As we know in communities, arts and culture can tend to be seen as sort of a fluffy, luxury thing that maybe does not require public investment,” Petersen-Brant said. “But, in doing this study, we are actually able to see the economic impact of arts and culture, which then turns around and lets people know that it is something that communities should be investing in and making sure that it thrives as part of a community.”

The Five Flags Center is one of the entities that could see itself benefited from the results of the study. Its general manager, H.R. Cook, said the venue spent much of the last year closed down because of the pandemic, which is why he said they did not know what to expect when they started holding concerts again this spring.

”It has been remarkable,” he confessed. “What we are finding from an entertainment standpoint is that people want to be out and socialize.”

Cook said they have already done about 20 shows this year, something out of the ordinary.

”Our event schedule is full,” he mentioned. “We normally do not do many concerts during the summer. We are already doing four in July and August. Our September, October is already booked.”

During his time as general manager for Five Flags, Cook said he has found out Dubuque is a magnet for entertainment. He added only about 20 percent of the people who come to shows at Five Flags are actually from the city.

“The rest are coming from Cedar Rapids, Madison, Chicago, Rockford, Des Moines, Omaha,” he listed. “If you give them the culture, if you give them the museums, the murals, the entertainment, the venues, they will come, they will spend the money.”

The Iowa Arts Council, the study’s main participant, is helping subsidize the cost for Dubuque. Petersen-Brant explained, normally, the cost would have been $6,000, but they are participating for just $3,000. That funding will come from money that was designated for Art on the River last year, an event that was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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