Project Overview

AEP6 is the sixth economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the U.S. This study is conducted approximately every five years to gauge the economic impact (on employment, government revenue, and household income) of spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and the event-related spending by their audiences. Previous studies were published in 1994, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017. (Due to the unique nature of the realities of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the AEP6 study was postponed for 16 months.)

In 2017, the previous study, AEP5, documented that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity (spending by organizations plus the event-related spending by their audiences) which supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in government revenue. The AEP series demonstrates that an investment in the arts provides both cultural and economic benefits.

  • Nonprofit arts and culture organizations are businesses. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from within the community, are members of their Chambers of Commerce, and attract tourists to their regions.
  • The arts drive commerce to local businesses. The arts, unlike most industries, leverage significant amounts of event-related spending by their audiences. In 2017, arts attendees spent $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and lodging—vital income for local businesses.
  • Arts travelers are ideal tourists. They stay longer and spend more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. One-third of attendees travel from outside the county in which the activity takes place and spend an average of $48 per person. (69% say they traveled specifically to attend the activity.)
  • Small investments. Big returns. In 2017, the combined $5 billion in direct arts funding by local, state, and federal governments yielded $27.5 billion in government revenue

Additional Resources:

What's Happening Right Now

During NOVEMBER and DECEMBER 2022:

  • The local and state research partners continue to collect audience-intercept surveys from attendees to in-person arts and culture events taking place in their community. This process will continue for 12 months from May 2022 through April 2023. As of November 1, Americans for the Arts has received a total of 51,182 audience surveys.
    • So far, 66% have been collected using traditional paper surveys, and 34% using the QR code versions.
    • 17% have been collected at events that were presented, produced, or hosted by an organization that primarily serves a community of color.
    • The traditional paper version of the survey has been translated into 23 languages.
    • The survey is also available electronically via customized QR codes (in English and Spanish).
  • The research partners are continuing to compile a comprehensive list of the eligible nonprofit arts and culture organizations that are located in their community. The deadline for the lists to be delivered to Americans for the Arts has been extended to December 2. The AEP6 project team will send an economic impact survey to each eligible organization in the participating communities. The survey instrument will be finalized this fall with guidance from the AEP6 Equity Task Force, and the survey process will be implemented during February through April 2023.
  • We are excited to announce that the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture has joined the AEP6 study! Their participation will result in customized reports for both the City of San Juan as well as the entire Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  • Dr. Genna Styles-Lyas, Director of AEP6 Community Engagement & Equity, continues to connect individually by video or phone with each of the local and state research partners to introduce herself, answer questions, provide project support, and encourage the use of the community engagement resources. She has spoken to more than 200 partners individually so far and has participated in 12 regional meetings hosted by statewide partners.

The Participating Communities

The AEP6 study is being conducted in partnership with local and state research partners representing the 399 participating communities. Each community will receive a customized report based on their own surveys of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences. An economic model will be tailored for each community to provide specific data about the industry’s impact on local jobs and government revenue. Reports will have many features including cross-community comparisons with other AEP6 communities, analyses of how spending differs between resident attendees and cultural tourists, and clear explanations of the methodology and how to use the data effectively.

Centering Equity & Inclusion 

Americans for the Arts is committed to addressing equity and inclusion as a critical component of the methodology, organizational participation, and collection of data for AEP6 by centering and representing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American) identifying communities—a segment of the nonprofit arts and culture sector that has been underrepresented in past studies.

AEP6 is making a significant expansion beyond its previous iterations by centering equity and inclusion across the study. This change is more than simply responding to a priority. It is transforming the study—a full shake-out of the methodology to reduce systemic bias in survey design, data collection, and analysis; establishing a new local, state, and national partnership model; community engagement and communications strategies; and the creation of new narratives based on the study results.

For the first time, AEP6 will establish a benchmark of arts and culture organizations that primarily serve communities of color, and the audiences that attend their events. It will also identify organizations that have a chief executive who identifies as BIPOC or ALAANA. Researchers will use the data to calculate the economic impact of the BIPOC and ALAANA arts sector.

AEP6 Equity Consultant

The Miles Partnership has been added to the project team as AEP6 equity consultants to support our commitment to centering diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility into the project methodology. 

AEP6 Equity Task Force

An AEP6 Equity Task Force was created that includes participating research partners, individuals representing the BIPOC and ALAANA organizations that will be surveyed, funders, researchers, and other arts leaders to guide the development and implementation of an Equity Framework.

Director of AEP6 Community Engagement & Equity

Dr. Genna Styles-Lyas joined the AEP6 project team in this new position created to focus on and drive the implementation of the AEP6 study's equity and inclusion initiatives, support the local and state research partners in engaging with and encouraging the support of their BIPOC and ALAANA arts community, tracking the success of the local data collection efforts, creating training and enhancement opportunities for the research partners, and evaluating the outcomes of the study.

Language and Identity

Americans for the Arts believes that language and identity go hand-in-hand and are essential to how we name and organize any community. We use the terms BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American) to represent People of Color and Communities of Color. While these terms do not fully encompass or represent the complicated and multi-layered nature of indigeneity or ethnic and racial identities, they are the most commonly used terms in our work. We invite and encourage you to examine and explore the terms used in your community and that are important and valued by individuals you interact with, support, and engage. Americans for the Arts has a Language Bank that we use to organize terminology related to our work. In addition, Americans for the Arts endorses and is working to uphold the actions and principles outlined in the Cultural New Deal to improve conditions for and with the priority communities listed therein.

Data Collection

To accomplish AEP6, a customized economic impact study is completed for each of the participating communities. In each community, a research partner organization is identified to assist Americans for the Arts with two primary data collection efforts: an audience-intercept survey of attendees to arts and culture events that take place in the community, and a budget and attendance survey of the comprehensive universe of nonprofit arts and culture organizations that exist in the community.

Each participating community receives a final report customized for their survey data and based on an economic input-output model tailored for their specific local economy. Researchers then use the localized findings to extrapolate national impact estimates for the entire nonprofit arts and culture industry.

The Audience Survey

Audience surveys will be collected from attendees at performances, events, exhibits, venues, and facilities during the 12 months from May 2022 through April 2023.

  • Questions 1-7 are the core economic impact questions about the expenditures related to attending the event.
  • Question 8 is a scale that captures the respondents’ level of agreement with four statements that will add a social impact component to the data collection.
  • Questions 9-13 capture the respondents’ demographic characteristics (optional).

The survey is available in multiple formats and translations:

  • English language survey (all versions of the survey)
  • Spanish language survey (all versions of the survey)
  • 23 additional translations (of the paper survey) are available due to requests from the local and state research partners
  • Customized QR Codes are available for all participating communities (to allow respondents to use their own smart devices while attending an activity)
  • Customized URL versions of the survey have also been created (for use as a "kiosk-mode survey" on tablet computers such as iPads that are provided to attendees while attending an activity)
  • A large-font format is available in both the QR Code and URL versions of the customized surveys

The local and state research partners each received detailed and customized surveying instructions to support the data collection requirements. In addition, the AEP6 project team held a survey training webinar on April 21. This training was recorded and the recording was shared with the research partners. 

The Organizational Survey

Each of the local and state research partners will compile a comprehensive list of the eligible nonprofit arts and culture organizations that are located in their community. This list will be gathered over the summer and fall of 2022 and will be delivered to the AEP6 project team on December 2. Americans for the Arts will conduct an economic impact survey of those organizations from February through April 2023. The survey instrument is still under development.

  • The survey will collect information about each organization's revenues, expenditures, physical (in-person) attendance, virtual attendance, staff size, and volunteers.
  • The survey will also include a set of diversity and inclusion questions designed to identify organizations that primarily serve a community of color and organizations that have a chief executive who identifies as a person of color.