Report: Nonprofit arts and culture in Rutherford County generates $31.2 million annually

Guests watch live performances of old-time music at Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on July 8, 2017. (Tayhlor Stephenson / MTSU Sidelines)

Photo by Tayhlor Stephenson / Lifestyles Editor 

The City of Murfreesboro announced Wednesday that Rutherford County’s nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $31.2 million annually, according to a statewide 2016 Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) economic impact study.

The study, which was commissioned by the Tennessee Arts Commission and overseen by the nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts, reported that the county supports 1,054 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $18.3 million in household income to local residents.

Arts volunteerism in Rutherford County totaled over 125,000 hours of volunteered time, amounting to an economic impact of around $2.9 million.  

State Rep. Dawn White (R- Murfreesboro) called the arts community’s economic impact on the city “undeniable,” but “the true value of their investment in our citizens far exceeds any monetary measurement.”

In Rutherford County, the study gathered data from 36 local arts organizations.

Event spending contributes to the overall economic success of the nonprofit arts industry in Rutherford County. The report revealed that, on average, attendees spent $21.53 per person at each local arts event on transportation, lodging, food, souvenirs and other commodities.

According to a City of Murfreesboro press release, the study was the largest nonprofit arts study ever conducted in Rutherford County. The report demonstrates the importance of nonprofit arts in Tennessee, reaching far beyond a cultural impact.

“Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations substantially contribute to Rutherford County’s tourism economic impact, while making our community a more desirable place to live, work and play,” said Barbara Wolke, the senior vice president of the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Wolke said events such as Uncle Dave Macon Days Music and Arts Festival and places like the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring bring money to the county.

The study collected data from 642 eligible nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Tennessee as well as almost 15,000 audience participation surveys, according to the 38-page report. On a statewide scale, the industry hauls in $1.17 billion to Tennessee.

City of Murfreesboro Assistant Manager Jennifer Moody said, “The arts mean business in Rutherford County.” Moody said that while nonprofit arts are known to make waves culturally, the study shows that their economic impacts make “significant benefits to our local economy.”

In comparison, Metro Nashville’s nonprofit arts and culture sector brought $429 million to the city, as reported by the Tennessean. Its population exceeds Rutherford County’s by about six times.

On a national level, the AEP5 study calculated that the industry generates about $166.3 billion annually, supporting 4.6 million full-time equivalent jobs.    

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email

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