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O.C. Arts Add $260 Million to Economy : Support: More money is generated by the arts in other cities. Then again, other cities offer more to their artists.


COSTA MESA — Nonprofit arts organizations generated nearly $260 million in economic activity in Orange County in 1989, according to a study released Wednesday by the Orange County Business Committee for the Arts.

Comparative studies showed that more activity was generated in two metropolitan areas of roughly comparable size, San Diego ($270.4 million) and Boston ($499 million). The studies further showed that Orange County artists and presenters receive the lowest rate of support per capita.

The Orange County study, prepared by Chapman College economist James L. Doti, was based on written questionnaires returned by 37 of the county's 113 arts organizations. Together, nonprofit arts organizations employ 3,881 people, making the arts the county's ninth largest non-government employer, the study found.

Doti said the $260-million figure was composed of $50.8 million in direct spending, including salaries and operating expenses; $146.7 million in indirect spending, the amount of money arts organization employees and vendors, in turn, spend in the county; and $62.3 million in indirect audience spending, mainly purchase of meals, drinks, transportation, etc., beyond the cost of tickets.

In the comparison, the county was found to have the highest level of private donations per capita, $7.91, compared to $7.66 in San Diego and $6.88 in Boston. However, the county ranked lowest in per-capita government support, $1.21, compared to $3.34 in San Diego and $3.20 in Boston. Taken together, the private and government support levels ranked Orange County third at $9.11, compared to $11 in San Diego and $10.08 in Boston.

Doti explained this ranking by saying that arts organizations in the other two areas were "more mature" and have been able to build broader bases of support and larger endowments. He also cited the presence of more museums in the other metropolitan areas, many of which are directly supported by the government.

About 54% of those responding here said that private donor support had a "significant" influence on programming.

Orange County also ranked third in the number of annual paid admissions to nonprofit arts institutions, at less than one visit per person, compared to 1.75 visits in San Diego and 2.69 visits in Boston.

According to Doti, San Diego and Boston were chosen for comparison "since the same statistical methodology was used in economic impact of the arts studies" in those cities, making it "possible to compare the survey results."

Funds for the $10,000 study were contributed by Pacific Bell, Arnel Development and the Orange County Register, with additional support from Security Pacific Bank, Doti and Chapman College.

The Business Committee for the Arts' goal is "to stimulate business support of an involvement in the arts," though this support tends to be in the form of free legal and accounting services as opposed to hard cash. The committee operated on an annual budget of $142,076 in 1989, according to documents submitted to the IRS. Of that, $111,500 was spent on salaries for the director and her secretary, and operating and travel expenses. The committee's largest expenditure of the remaining funds was for an annual dinner for its members.

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