The Arts can be a nebulous term, including everything from street performances to grand concerts, fringe theater companies to big Broadway-bound shows, local artists dotting canvases to masters gracing museum walls. What’s no longer nebulous though—the arts are an economic engine.
A new report by the non-profit group ArtsBoston reveals the arts are a $1.4 billion annual industry in Greater Boston. That’s no surprise to developer and philanthropist Ron Druker.
“I think the reasons why we have new flights coming in from Dubai and from Bejing and from Istanbul and from Tokyo is not only because of the meds and eds, the hospitals and educational institutions, but also because of the cultural institutions,” Druker said.
Ten years ago Druker’s company built the Calderwood Pavilion, a theatrical space alongside a luxury residential building in the South End. It created an arts hive that helped transform the then blighted neighborhood.
“There’s no question that the arts component to this project created value for us. It created value in terms of being an anchor, attracting people for our restaurants," he says of Calderwood. "It created value in terms of people who live in the condominiums above liked being associated with an arts institution.”
As do millions in the region. The report also reveals that the greater Boston area has more arts and cultural groups per capita than any other U.S. city. Eighteen million people a year attend the arts, with 7 million experiencing them for free. But, on average ticket prices cover only 30 percent of production costs.
“You actually literally can’t imagine how hard it is and how much work it is.”
Last year Olivia D’Ambrosio founded Bridge Rep--a brand new theater company with five shows under its belt including the just-opened Gideon’s Knot. The fledgling group has already managed to reach an enviable 80 percent attendance in its small Calderwood space. That’s despite a daunting and crowded arts landscape, she said.
“The more arts there are, the more they actually all benefit each other. I don’t really see it as competition," she said. "When other theaters do well, or do a good production, those people that they’ve served are like, oh, I love theater, what else could I go to see, right?”
With early success, D’Ambrosio is committed to her company—just has Druker, whose name graces many an institution across the city, continues a decades long philanthropic investment in the arts.
“People enjoy being entertained and they enjoy being challenged, and that’s something which won’t change. When the vehicle and the media might change but I don’t think it will ever change that people want to be entertained.”
Watch the Greater Boston segment: