Forty-one point six million dollars.

That's a big number by almost any standard.

In 2015, the arts nonprofit sector generated $41.6 million dollars in spending in our community beyond the price of tickets.

That means people went to restaurants, coffee shops and bars, shopped locally and stayed in hotels.

All of this money was generated simply because of the arts, specifically the nonprofit arts sector. That doesn't count music concerts at the Fargodome, Bluestem, Scheels Arena and other locations, Gate City Bank's Broadway Theatre series, local bands that play around town, for-profit galleries or individual artists who attract audiences on their own.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

For years, I have argued that the arts play a significant role in our community. I have written time and again about the ability of artists and the arts to help problem solve, their capacity to create place, to entice and keep employees and their position as a valuable player in the overall economics of the metro.

But those arguments have largely been anecdotal and inspired by research conducted outside the community.

That is about to change.

On Dec. 5 at the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce's Eggs and Issues breakfast, I will present the findings from the two-year Arts and Economics Impact Study that The Arts Partnership embarked upon with Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy organization.

Joining me will be panelists Brad Schlossman of West Acres, Jodi Duncan of Flint Group, Karin Rudd of Gate City Bank and Jack Yakowicz of Office Sign Company.

Those of us who work in the arts have long known that we make an economic impact in the metro. We know that when people attend an arts event, they often spend money elsewhere, too. We have believed that those ripples have been important, but we have only had our instincts and some unofficial data collection.

We live in a time where measurable information is king. As a sector, we often have not been able to definitively prove our economic worth to the larger business and governmental sectors.

Instead, we have told stories of more personal impact; stories of how the arts have affected a person or a group in a positive way. We have shown how much art we can make on lean budgets and how much we can accomplish with too-small staffs.

And we have hoped that these stories and our "do more with less" attitude would inspire the business community to invest in us.

Now we have proof that our impact is real and significant.

Those $41.6 million dollars are real dollars, and they are making a real difference. I hope you will join us at Eggs and Issues on Dec. 5 to learn more and that you will think about how you can invest in the arts so they can do even more to continue to make our metro great.

Dayna Del Val, president and CEO of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Variety. For more information on the arts, go to