Culture adds to Aspen’s coffers |

Culture adds to Aspen’s coffers

The arts in Aspen and Snowmass are making an $85 million splash in the community, according to a recent study. In summer, when classical music, theater, ballet and visual arts compete for attention, it’s easy to see how the town’s cultural community is thriving. But to get a firm grasp on just how much local arts organizations affect the local economy, the Red Brick Center for the Arts commissioned an economic impact study last summer with funding from a city of Aspen grant.What it boils down to is an estimated total impact of $84.9 million from the events and organizations ($27.2 million) and their audiences ($57.7 million).In other words, arts patrons spend a fair amount of money when they visit town, said city of Aspen finance director Paul Menter. Total taxable retail sales in Aspen for 2003 were $371 million; $57.7 million that was linked to the arts, including hotel stays and dinners out.”There’s no question that the summer arts and music is of tremendous economic benefit to our community,” Menter said.But the study was about more than just economics; the arts community is a vital piece of the city’s soul.”It’s what we’re all about – back to the mind, body and spirit,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, referring to the Aspen Idea. “We wouldn’t be Aspen without the arts and culture.”The study, results of which were released this week, surveyed 777 audience members at various arts events ranging from the Anderson Ranch Arts Center to Aspen Theatre in the Park. Specific arts organizations were also surveyed to determine their employment impact on the Aspen area economy.”Everyone was waiting with baited breath to hear the conclusions for this – it’s great information for future grant writing,” said Cindy Bingham, director of the Red Brick Center for the Arts. “This gives us a better picture of the whole arts scene.”Winter expansion opportunitiesWhile the arts have a sound following during Aspen’s summers, there is room for the arts community to grow in winter.According to survey respondents, arts events were the No. 1 reason for visiting Aspen in summer, but outdoor activities were the reason to visit in winter. Still, the survey indicated the arts enjoy a close second place in the winter. The conclusion to the study notes that arts organizations have a big opportunity to increase their winter events participation through marketing.”In the years I’ve been here, and perhaps more recently, the presence of arts in the winter has grown,” Klanderud noted. “Of course, it’ll never be the full performance schedule we have in the summer, but clearly concerts and openings at the art museum and the Writers Foundation’s lecture series, help to round out the winter.”And when you have a group that comes here in the winter and some people don’t want to ski, there’s always the arts,” Klanderud continued. “It’s a better opportunity for people with diverse interests to come here.”According to the study, more locals than visitors attend arts and cultural events in the winter. “I think we’ve always wanted the winter numbers to be humongous, and they are big,” added Bingham. “But we’d still love to see our winter numbers bigger.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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