Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in downtown St. Paul, one of the primary venues bringing $477 annual economic impact to the city, according to a new study. Photo by Tom Wallace.

Minnesota has long justifiably claimed bragging rights for its robust arts and culture offerings. Now the most comprehensive group of studies conducted to date on the subject has quantified the arts' economic impact further, attaching dollar amounts to what the arts brings to 17 cities throughout the state.

"Creative Minnesota: The Impact and Health of the Nonprofit Arts and Culture Sector" found that:

-- 1,269 nonprofit organizations support the equivalent of 33,000 full-time jobs

-- 19 million people attend arts and cultural events each year

-- 2.6 million K-12 school students are served by these organizations each year.

As the most populous city, Minneapolis led the pack at $540.6 million, but St. Paul claimed more impact per capita with $477 million. Minneapolis has more than 14 times the arts economy of other cities with comparable populations, and St. Paul has more than 10 times others of its size, the studies found.

According to data provided by Americans for the Arts, Minnesota has twice the arts economy of Wisconsin though its populations are close to the same, and 12 1/2 times that of South Dakota.

Asked why the gap is so pronounced, Sheila Smith, director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA), cited the state's long history of public and private giving to the arts.

"Minnesota has benefited from 100 years of great civic leadership that has focused on the idea that everyone should have access to arts and culture no matter what their circumstances," she said.

The report was a joint effort of MCA and Creative Minnesota, a collaboration of arts and culture funders including the McKnight, Bush and Jerome foundations, Target Corp. and the Minnesota State Arts Board. See creativemn.org for more details.

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