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Study explores impacts pandemic had on arts organizations, and how they're rebounding

Students in the VT String Project perform at a farmer's market in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech String Project
Students in the VT String Project perform at a farmer's market in Blacksburg.

A national study looks at the economic impact of nonprofit arts organizations, including those in Blacksburg and Christiansburg. It’s the first time a community in the western part of Virginia was included in the report.

The study was conducted by Advocacy for the Arts, and is an overview of how many dollars are generated by nonprofit arts organizations. It was the group’s first national study in five years, and includes 2020 and 2021, when the pandemic put the brakes on live shows and events. 

“Mental health issues and community unity issues were a huge thing, as was the economy, and local economies,” said Randy Cohen, vice president of research at Advocacy for the Arts. He said in 2022, arts organizations began to see a major rebound.

“You know what we find with this research study is that arts and culture gets us out of our homes,” Cohen said, adding that the report also reveals the arts industry generates more than $41 million a year in Montgomery County and nearly 700 jobs. These numbers include spending before and after events by local residents and tourists.

“And they’re spending money at local businesses and local restaurants and hotels,” Cohen said.

The study also finds that residents in Montgomery County have a strong pride in arts and cultural events.

“I think we’ve just scratched the surface for the potential for what arts and culture has for the region,” said David Rotenizer, executive director for Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Montgomery County Regional Tourism. 

The report looked at 373 regions across the United States. This was the first time Blacksburg and Christiansburg were included.

“And I’m also very proud of the fact that all the other studies that were done in Virginia this cycle were all in the urban crescent; D.C., Richmond and Tidewater,” Rotenizer said. “We’re the only one in the western part of the state and I’m very proud of that. 

Rotenizer said this data can be used by organizations in the area to help with grant applications, which can help generate more funding.

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.