QUINCY -- Quincy's collection of visual art, theater, music, and museum offerings provides the fabric for a vibrant cultural community.
That same collection also provides employment, attracts tourists, complements existing businesses, enhances property values, expands the tax base, attracts well-educated employees and contributes to making Quincy a creative and innovative environment where people enjoy working or living.
According to a recent Arts and Economic Prosperity study, the nonprofits contribute $15.6 million annually to the local economy. This includes $12.8 million in spending by the nonprofit art organizations. The overall figure includes the more than $2 million that Quincy area residents spend each year on art-related programs, tickets to performances, and museum admissions. The study also found that out-of-town visitors contribute $788,000 to the local economy each year in similar spending.
Maggie Strong said she is not surprised by the report's findings.
"I've seen firsthand the impact the arts have on our community," said Strong, who is a consultant hired by the city of Quincy to help direct and implement the Quincy Next Strategic Plan, which includes a variety of art-related initiatives in Quincy. "I've seen donations from the community be made to support their favorite programs. I've seen how the arts and different programs move money in our community."
Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Holly Cain said Quincy's art and culture organizations remain a great asset for her as she promotes the city as a tourism destination.
"The arts are everywhere and are one of our main focuses in tourism promotions," Cain said. "With 10 museums, foodie and historical tours that incorporate our murals and art, to our private home tours and architectural tours that feature both architecture and art. Art is all around us and is a great asset that we have to promote here. We don't have to look far to be immersed in art in the Quincy area."
Sievert said she is glad to partner with the QCVB to help promote the city's art-related programs and organizations.
"There is no denying that arts bring people into Quincy and when people come to Quincy that means they are also bringing their money with them," said Arts Quincy Executive Director Laura Sievert. The local arts council, which was previously known as the Quincy Society of Fine Arts, was organized in 1945 and is recognized as being America's oldest arts council.
"For example, when you have people going out to the theater or for the symphony, they are also going to be likely going out to dinner before or out for drinks afterward," Sievert said. "The benefit of having such a big arts community to our local businesses can't be overstated. Arts and culture activities are big economic benefits for Quincy."
A longtime Quincy real estate agent and broker, Greg Zanger, knows firsthand how important the arts are to the Gem City. He said he is frequently asked by potential homebuyers who are new to Quincy about different aspects of daily life in Adams County.
"People put a high value on things that improve their lives," said Zanger, who also is president of the board of directors for the Quincy Museum. "People look for communities that have strong schools, that have great parks and that have a big art community. We hear a lot of compliments from people about the number of art-related groups and organizations that we have here in Quincy, whether that is the Quincy Civic Music Association, the Quincy Symphony Orchestra or the Quincy Museum."
Strong also has heard firsthand from newcomers impressed by Quincy's art community.
"We've been told by large employers in Quincy that potential employees and executives really pay attention to quality of the schools here in Quincy, to the activities in the community like the symphony or the civic music association," Strong said. "Potential employees who are looking to relocate here for new job opportunities see these kinds of things as a real positive."
Sievert said she and the other employees of Arts Quincy are dedicated to continue their work.
"We know that art and culture opportunities and engagement are critical pieces to attracting and retaining a quality workforce," Sievert said.
The Arts and Economic Prosperity study also found the city's arts and culture sector ranks as the fourth largest area of employment behind health care, manufacturing and education. The study found 625 people were employed in the arts and culture sector.
"That number includes not just the artists or the performers, but the people who work in jobs related to the arts that people don't think about like bookkeepers, costume designers, accountants, ticket sales -- the list can go on and on," Sievert said.
Local business leaders also discussed the impact Quincy's art and culture community will likely have as the city plots its future growth following the 2020 census.
"Quincy's population seems to have been 40,000 people forever," Zanger said. "Yes, the city is growing, but it is spreading out. When it does go over 40,000 people, I think the thing that brings those new people into Quincy will be the uniqueness of Quincy's amenities, which includes its parks and recreation, its health care options, its schools and the arts, which continue to provide so many attractions and activities for people to do with their friends and family."
Joi Austin of the Great River Economic Development Foundation agreed.
"I think the arts and culture organizations of Quincy are going to be a big factor in helping to grow Quincy," Austin said. "As we have been stagnant in population growth for a while, a strong arts community will certainly help us grow."