Regional Vitality Depends on the Arts

While Greater New Haven has always supported the arts and its artists, a renewed commitment is needed to not only sustain this vital sector, but also continue building a place where people want to live, work and play.

New Haven's International Festival of Arts and Ideas attracts thousands of visitors every summer. Photo Credit: Judy Sirota Rosenthal

In the past half-century, the New Haven area has become a premier cultural destination. Its robust arts sector was built with multiple levels of financial support including philanthropy and public spending. A steep decline in state arts funding, however, combined with uncertainty over the Federal government's commitment to the arts, aging audiences and changing demographics has put local arts organizations in a precarious position.

While Greater New Haven has always supported the arts and its artists, a renewed commitment is needed to not only sustain this vital sector, but also continue building a place where people want to live, work and play.

Data source: National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

The Numbers

  • The arts and culture sector generates $653 million in economic activity in Connecticut and delivers $59 million in local and state government revenue1.
  • Connecticut's per-capita spending on the arts is $1.54; in Massachusetts, it's $2.082.
  • 71% of Greater New Haven Residents use arts and cultural resources3.
  • Every $1 of NEA direct funding leverages up to $9 in additional private and other public funds4.

Strong Returns on a Small Investment

Arts funding represents a tiny fraction of state and federal budgets, far below one percent of all public spending. Cutting public funds to arts programs therefore has a negligible impact on reducing budget deficits.

Conversely, public investment in the arts provides significant returns, both financially and in intangible benefits. Events held by the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Guilford Craft Expo, the Shubert Theatre, Elm City Shakespeare and others generate not only ticket sales, but also revenues for nearby restaurants, hotels and parking.

A vibrant arts scene is also an important competitive edge for a city and region seeking growth by enticing new residents and businesses.

"The arts are a place to spend money and attract people," says Arts Council of Greater New Haven Executive Director Daniel Fitzmaurice. "Institutions like Arts & Ideas would never be where they are today without state support. As a state and region we need to reinvest in arts and culture. We will not be able to sustain our sector without public support."

A Vibrant Sector Decades in the Making

Many of New Haven's arts institutions took root during the 1960s. The Long Wharf Theatre Company was launched in a vacant food terminal warehouse in 1965 with the opening Arthur Miller's, The Crucible. A year later, the Yale Repertory Theater opened its doors and Paul Mellon donated his British Art collection and an endowment to create what became the Yale Center for British Art.

The decade also saw the Arts Council of Greater New Haven forge a long-term partnership with the city to transform an industrial area with a foundry into the Audubon Arts District. The district welcomed the Neighborhood Music School in 1968 and later became home to Creative Arts Workshop and Educational Center for the Arts.
The Community Foundation provided more than $500,000 to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven during the Audubon Arts District development and later partnered with the Council to develop The Community Foundation building, which is now home to the New Haven Ballet, the Arts Council, and The Community Foundation.

Today, Audubon Arts District draws several thousand students of all ages annually to a diversity of classes in dance, music, theater, and visual arts. These classes expand the pools of both trained artists and audiences, while also providing teaching jobs to the many artists who call Greater New Haven home.

Beyond Stability After the Economic Downturn

In the wake of the economic downturn of 2008, arts organizations experienced a decrease in financial support from all sources5. Overall trends in individual and foundation giving have since reversed and are now going up6. While federal NEA funding has remained relatively stable, state funding in Connecticut — a far larger source of revenue for local arts organizations — has continued to slide.

A 2015 analysis of the arts sector commissioned by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven finds that the largest arts organizations have recovered to the point of having enough working capital to fulfill their missions. The sector remains vulnerable, however, because organizations lack the capital reserves or endowments to take artistic risks, market themselves in new ways and build new audiences that will support the arts going forward.

What the Community Foundation is Doing

In 2012, The Foundation convened area arts organizations to study the strengths and weaknesses of the sector and identify trends and issues impacting its sustainability.

Out of this convening, The Foundation developed a three-part Arts Strategy to:

  1. Work with arts organizations to mobilize a community-wide effort to increase funding and advocate for public support;
  2. Award grants to arts organizations in developing and diversifying audiences; to help organizations adapt to the changing demographics of the community, supporting educational activities and funding for the use of technology; and
  3. Prioritize the largest arts organizations for operating and program support grants in recognition of the important role play in the overall ecosystem

Recent grant recipients include:

Works Cited

  1. Arts & Economic Prosperity IV in the State of Connecticut, Americans for the Arts, Washington, DC 2012.
  2. National Assembly of State Arts Agencies accessed May 18, 2017.
  3. Abraham, Mark and Mary Buchanan. (2016). Greater New Haven Community Index. New Haven, CT: DataHaven.
  4. accessed May 18, 2017.
  5. accessed May 18, 2017.
  6. Giving USA 2014-the Annual Report on Philanthropy. ;

© The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
May 2017