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The East Bay region has been a center for arts and cultural activity for decades.
Recognizing this, the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce has made support for the arts one of the seven core values of the Chamber’s Healthy City Initiative Program.

The Chambers primary market area, Emeryville, Berkeley, and Oakland, is the home to more artists, per capita, than almost anywhere in the United States. The Healthy City Initiative Program recognizes that artist communities contribute mightily to the vibrancy, beauty and diversity of our respective communities.

There are some who question why we should provide public – taxpayer – support for the arts. This questioning becomes more acute in tough economic times.
There is at least one very tangible reason for supporting the arts, and public art in particular: It beautifies our region and makes it a more attractive and appealing place to live, work, shop, and conduct business.

For example, a casual walk through almost any part of Emeryville reveals many examples of this beautification: the landmark art under the freeway on Powell Street; the artworks outside of the EmeryStation East building and Fire Station #2 on Hollis Street; and those funky yellow utility boxes spread throughout the City, among many other examples.
But there is another reason why we support the arts. Solid data exists that demonstrate that support for the arts is good for the local economy.

A 2004 study, The Arts: A Competitive Advantage for California II, examined the issue of the nonprofit arts and related topics in a 2004 comprehensive report to measure the economic impact and value of the arts and culture sector. Below are some of the report’s main findings.

• Total nonprofit arts sector spending in California is $2.2 billion, including direct expenditures by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations on everything from wages and benefits to goods and services.
• California’s nonprofit arts attract 71.2 million people who in addition to admission contribute $1 billion more to the economy.
• Nonprofit arts generate millions of dollars in tax revenue — an impact totaling nearly $300 million, as of this report.
• The impact of the nonprofit arts sector includes $2.7 billion in worker income. These worker income impacts are comparable to those of workers in California’s sports and recreation clubs, commercial sports and auto rental industries.
• Californians invest more than 10 million hours as volunteers for nonprofit arts organizations, valued at more than $165.4 million.
• In California in 2004, there are more arts-related businesses (89,719) — including nonprofit organizations — and more people employed (516,054) in the creative industries than in any other state in the nation. Creative Industries in California — ground-breaking research conducted by Americans for the Arts and unveiled in Chapter 6 of this study demonstrates that the creative industries are a significant industry in California.
• Nonprofit arts contribute to California’s ranking as the most visited state in the nation. The primary motivation for 6 million tourists to travel in California is to enjoy nonprofit arts. In addition to what tourists spend at an arts event, the costs of lodging, meals, transportation and retail the day of an event as well as the day before or after an event is significant. Total economic impact of tourists spending is just under $1 billion.
• Philanthropic support — money received from foundations, individuals and corporations — plus government subsidies total $1.06 billion and are vital to keeping the arts accessible and affordable to all Californians.
• Nonprofit arts are economic engines in communities both small and large. In the state’s more rural communities, arts venues are essential elements in downtown revitalization, generating an impact of $120 million annually. In California’s large metropolitan areas, the arts make important contributions to urban renewal and development. In Los Angeles County, which has the largest economic impact of the arts in the state, $2 billion is contributed to the economy.
• Californians care a great deal about the vitality of the arts sector and would pay more in taxes to prevent reductions in arts and cultural programming. We estimate that the average California household is willing to pay an additional $15.35 annually through taxes and other means to avoid a 25 percent reduction in arts events and $33.27 to avoid a 50 percent reduction. Given California’s 11,503,000 households, it means residents would be willing to pay $382.7 million more each year for arts activity — a substantial difference from the state’s current $1 million appropriation to the California Arts Council.
• Californians value the role of arts in education in the future success of children. Arts audiences consider arts education in schools a high priority. Among the state’s classroom teachers, 75 percent embrace the philosophy that the arts are important in a child’s well-rounded education. More significantly, 35 percent of the state’s teachers integrate the arts into their classroom curriculum as a way to help students learn. 

(The full text of the report is available on-line by visiting the California Arts Council website,

Emeryville’s aggressive Arts in Public Places ordinance is a key element to the remaking of this City from the dying industrial wasteland it once was. Now almost 20 years old, the ordinance requires developers of commercial projects to pay the equivalent of 1% of the project’s value into a public art fund. The program has been expanded over the years to a 2% fee for Redevelopment Agency projects of $2 million or more, and later a smaller fee was mandated for live-work projects. This money has been very prudently collected, managed and used to beautify Emeryville and help make it a mecca for arts and artists from around the region – a clear quality of life amenity.

Looking to the future, the City Council has approved the renovation of the old United Stamping Company building on Hollis Street, adjacent to City Hall, as an Arts and Cultural Center. A founding Board has been appointed has as begun the process of hiring the Center’s first executive director, who will oversee fundraising, hiring staff and booking exhibits. There may be no better tangible evidence of Emeryville’s reinventing itself than the conversion of this former industrial site to a permanent site for theatrical productions and arts exhibits, including the long-running Annual Emeryville Art Exhibition, which has had to search for a new home every year.

Here is the lesson that is critical for us all to remember: Artistic and cultural health is a vital part of the fabric of our community. Far beyond a “nicety” or a luxury that we can take or leave, the arts and cultural amenities are key components to a fully viable, healthy and functioning community, and clearly a factor that improves the health of our educational system as well. Each new large development approved by the Emeryville City Council continues to guarantee funding for this wonderful program which results in more public artwork throughout the City. The Chamber’s Healthy City Initiative Program is proud to promote Artistic and Cultural health as core the entire community can embrace.

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