Submitted by Rebekah Finn for Harlequin Productions

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if your favorite store, restaurant, or event venue were to suddenly disappear? Unfortunately for some long-time Olympia residents, this has been a real experience too many times. Maybe you yourself have had a George Bailey moment, looking back on how your favored organization benefitted so many lives and families in the community. The team at Harlequin Productions has faced this moment a couple times throughout its 26-year history, always managing to come back from the edge thanks to generous supporters and enthusiastic audience members.

Harlequin Productions’ Economic Impact

Harlequin Productions
Figure 1

If that support were to go away, it would not only take away our amazing live theater that we love, but it would actually have a huge impact on our local economy. Using the findings from the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) study and calculation tools from Americans for the Arts, Harlequin Productions estimates that its operations bring approximately $1.4 million into downtown Olympia each year. That is not insignificant for a small city! Audience survey data from that same study showed the average audience member spent $31.47 per person beyond the cost of admission. (This spending goes up to $47.57 if the audience member comes from out of town.) What that looks like locally, is that Harlequin’s audience is spending money not just on show tickets, but also on food from nearby restaurants, drinks from nearby bars, local transportation to get into and around downtown, babysitting, and other related expenditures in the community (see graph: Average Person Per Event). So if Harlequin had to stop putting on shows, our favorite shops and restaurants may be in danger of closing up as well.

National Impact of Nonprofit Arts Organizations

Harlequin Productions
Figure 2

And now you may be thinking of the current administration in the other Washington and the threats of shutting down the National Endowment for the Arts. Won’t federal budget cuts negatively affect local arts organizations? Well, yes, of course they will (although federal spending on the arts—$146 million— is a drop in the bucket compared to federal military spending—$598 billion in 2015—but let’s not get too political). But the funding is not as simple as a one-way flow from the government out to the nonprofit sector. In fact, the AEP5 study showed that the nonprofit arts industry nationally generated $27.5 billion in revenue back to the government in 2015. $27.5 billion! Just in government revenue! (See figure 2: Economic Impact.)


Harlequin Productions
Figure 3

As part of the gross domestic product, the nonprofit industry generated $166.3 billion in 2015. Those expenditures include providing for 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs, translating to nearly 1% of the total U.S. workforce (see figure 3: Percentage of U.S. Workforce). These figures really shift the conversation from one of charity, or even support of culture, to one of flat-out industry. When it comes to the US economy, the arts are a major player.

What does this mean for us?

As proud Olympians and Washingtonians, we value living in a place with a thriving arts and culture scene amidst a breathtaking natural environment. We’ve also seen the effects of economic downturns and how that can lead to urban areas that are less than desirable places to spend time. Fortunately, we have the power to help maintain vitality in our own local communities by contributing to organizations that bring economic prosperity. Be part of the ripple effect by spending your money on local arts and entertainment.

Visit the Harlequin Productions website to sign up for a Season 27 subscription and get the best deal on an exciting lineup of dramas, musicals, and comedies. If you want a free cookie at every show, and a handsome button to show how much you care, join the RLT club to be a VIP member. You may even qualify for a free tote bag.

And if you want to get in on the economic impact of Harlequin Productions, have your business sponsor a show or run an ad in the playbill. Visit the Harlequin Productions website for more information.

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