Thursday night’s nice breeze blowing around the rooftop of the Ford Center — home of Olson, the advertising agency that’s about a ground-rule double from Target Field — was especially welcome after the recent severe storms. But even if it had rained, it probably wouldn’t have dampened the spirits of supporters of the Minnesota Film and TV Board, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary as well as the 2013 Legislature’s approval of a record $10 million in incentives to lure film and TV production to Minnesota.

The Film Board is not the only notable local arts organization marking a milestone. “There are a lot of institutions doing round numbers right now,” said Gülgün Kayim, director of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy for the city of Minneapolis. Quickly listing the Guthrie, the Sculpture Garden, the Fringe Festival and the Minnesota Opera, Kayim said in an interview in her City Hall office that arts community’s longevity — as well as interconnectivity — isn’t coincidental. In fact, it’s the backbone of an arts ecosystem that’s led the Twin Cities to be ranked as having the sixth-highest creative vitality index (CVI) in the nation, right behind the Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston metro areas.

The CVI, based on 2010 data, is described in a report issued by Kayim’s office as a “tool that measures annual changes in the economic health of highly creative industries using information about organizational revenue, jobs, and other measures from creative businesses and nonprofits.” More directional than definitive, the report acknowledges limitations, like not measuring “many non-commerce-related arts impacts such as greater community cohesion and safety, feelings of well-being, expressions of identity and even rates of attendance.”

The index’s imprecision affects all data, however. So, relatively speaking, the Twin Cities is doing extraordinarily well, due in large part to the contributions of “nonprofit arts organizations whose primary mission is to present artwork,” which are 13.5 times the national average, and “nonprofit art organizations that support or incorporate the arts,” which are four times the national average. (Funds from the 2008 Legacy Amendment are part of these totals.)

“A colleague of mine from New York once said that everyone wants to die and move to Minneapolis because the nonprofit funding community here is just so strong,” Kayim said.

According to the report, the creative community injects about $700 million annually into the local economy. This impact goes beyond the arts economy and includes harder-to-measure metrics like quality of life, said Kayim. “Arts add value to whatever you are doing. It’s not just a livability scale, but if you invest in a creative person, you can actually increase the value of your product.”

This value-add dynamic relies on a vibrant arts ecosystem that can help employ a sustainable talent pool, said Lucinda Winter, executive director of the Minnesota Film and TV Board. “We have a diverse production community here. We’re all better off when we have a strong base. That’s why it’s really important that we support those arts groups and economic development groups who keep it glued together. If you don’t get a certain critical mass of infrastructure, there are things you don’t get done.”

This “critical mass of infrastructure” is part of a “creative ecology,” according to Kayim. Like other ecological models, there are overlapping sectors, including fine arts, art service organizations, arts education, creative industries, arts festivals, cross-sector arts, philanthropy, civic groups and, maybe most important, patrons.

While there is much to celebrate, Kayim also notes “red flags,” including flagging full-time arts employment, especially in disciplines like dance, architecture and landscape architecture, as well as the Minnesota Orchestra’s unresolved labor dispute. And economic and educational pressures can squeeze arts education, too. “If you learn about the arts, you build a lifelong passion for the arts,” Kayim said. “If you don’t have arts education, you don’t have vibrancy of the sector.”

Some education is outside the classroom, of course, which is vital in incorporating new communities into Minnesota’s mosaic. “Different populations will bring their own culture here, and if we are unable to engage with different cultures, we’re unable to welcome newcomers,” Kayim said.

While art is an asset uniquely well-developed in the Twin Cities, it has natural economic, social and political limitations. It can’t supplant, but rather supplements society. “To think of arts as a savior of the world? It’s part of the world,” Kayim added. “Arts and culture allow us to show the best of ourselves. If we don’t utilize that aspect of arts and culture, I think we’re missing something.”


John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. The Rash Report can be heard at 7:50 a.m. weekdays on WCCO Radio, 830-AM. On Twitter: @rashreport.