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The Economic Impact of the Arts

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts drone view
The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, held the first weekend of March each spring, brings more than 30,000 people to Tampa’s thriving downtown district.

When it comes to the arts, the first things that might spring to mind are the emotional and cultural benefits. Art, in its myriad forms, nourishes the soul, enriches the community, and brings a sense of cultural identity. But did you know that the arts have a significant economic impact on national, state and local economies?

A Vibrant National Economic Sector

According to a report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the arts and cultural sector contributed over $800 billion to the U.S. economy in 2019, or around 4.3% of the GDP. This includes everything from performing arts and museums to film production and advertising. The industry also generated approximately 5.2 million jobs, demonstrating its considerable role in employment. In contrast, other sectors like agriculture and transportation make up smaller proportions of the GDP.

Moreover, the arts drive tourism. Tourists are more likely to spend on cultural events, thereby supporting local businesses. As per a 2019 study by Americans for the Arts, nonlocal attendees of arts events spend an average of $47.57 beyond the cost of admission. This additional spending boosts sectors like hospitality, retail, and transportation.

Glass artist, GFA 53
The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts features the work of more than 250 artists.

Florida’s Flourishing Arts Scene

Florida also boasts a vibrant arts community that plays a significant role in the state’s economy. According to the Florida Cultural Alliance, the nonprofit arts and culture industry in Florida generates over $4.68 billion in total economic activity, supporting more than 132,000 full-time jobs. This doesn’t even account for the contributions from the for-profit sector, which includes film production, design services, and the music industry.

Cities like Miami have turned into global art hubs, partly due to events like Art Basel Miami Beach, which alone contributes approximately $13 million to the local economy. In Orlando, the arts scene is dominated by performing arts with institutions like the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which bring both economic and social gains to the community. 

Here in Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Sarasota, which is also known as the Culture Coast, have thriving arts scenes that play significant roles in each city’s economy. These cities are home to numerous art galleries, museums, performance venues, and cultural festivals like the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Mainsail Arts Festival in St. Petersburg, and the Sarasota Fall Fine Art Festival. The arts not only contribute directly to the economy through art purchases, merchandise, concessions, and other revenue streams but also indirectly by attracting tourism, inspiring local spending in nearby businesses like restaurants and hotels and increasing property values in arts-rich neighborhoods.

The Economic Driver of the Arts in Hillsborough County

According to the Hillsborough Arts Council, there are 181 arts and cultural nonprofits in Hillsborough County.  The most recent study produced by Americans for the Arts (AFTA) reported that arts and cultural organizations in Hillsborough County were responsible for $433.2 million in total expenditures annually and resulted in 14,962 jobs that created $329,133,000 in household income.  Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, like the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, or GFA, accounted for $175.2 million in total expenditures alone and added $7,982,000 to local government revenue.

Art festival attendees enjoying Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
Families of all shapes and sizes enjoy viewing and purchasing fine art and Festival merchandise at the Raymond James Festival of the Arts.

The Multiplier Effect and Community Revitalization

The impact of the arts goes beyond direct financial contributions; it has a multiplier effect. The arts often lead to community revitalization. In districts known for their arts scene, property values often rise, and businesses thrive. Sarasota is a perfect example of that. In Sarasota County, arts and culture have a direct economic impact of $295,004,458 per year. The arts employ 7,445 and contributes $166,978,000 directly to household income.  Moreover, a recent study by The Urban Institute’s Performing Arts Research Coalition shows that 71 percent of Sarasota residents attend arts events. In addition, 43 percent of those surveyed said that the arts played a part in their decision to move to Sarasota.

Here in Tampa, More Than Two million People Attend Arts and Culture Events Each Year 

They spend on average $40.09 per person on event-related spending, according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, which translates to $80 million+ in additional revenue for the city annually.

This data dramatically alters the perception that the arts are luxuries — worth supporting in prosperous times but hard to justify when the economy is struggling. At a time when governments at all levels are making tough budget choices, this data sends an important message — that their support for the arts does not come at the expense of economic development. This study sends a strong signal to our community that when it supports the arts, it also invests in our community’s economic well-being.

Moreover, the arts serve as a powerful tool for education and social inclusion, which indirectly supports economic growth. Students with high levels of arts engagement are more likely to excel academically, which in turn correlates with higher employability and earning potential.

Four in Five Americans Believe The Arts are a Positive Experience in a Troubled World

The arts are not just a ‘nice-to-have’ aspect of society; they are a ‘must-have’ economic powerhouse. From generating billions in economic activity to revitalizing communities and promoting social inclusion, the impact of the arts is multifaceted and far-reaching. The United States, and Florida in particular, are prime examples of how investing in the arts is not just a cultural endeavor but an economic imperative.

In short, the arts not only enriches our cultural tapestry but also fortifies our economic foundation.  GFA is proud to have been a part of this economic engine for the past 54 years.


Ajeva is a funk/rock band from St. Petersburg, FL. The band started in 2013 and features Reed Skahill (vocals), Taylor Gilchrist (bass), Mike Nivens (guitar), and Lyndon Thacker (keys). They’ve carved out a sound of their own with epic melodies and distinctive vocals that pair perfectly with their deep grooves. Each Ajeva show is a one of a kind experience with the band taking their songs to different places and new heights every night.

Light the Wire

Light the Wire makes heartfelt, indie-folk rock that with powerful vocal harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, and powered by driving bass and drums.  The quintet is based out of Tampa, FL, and released its self-produced, debut EP – “Someday Is Coming” on all streaming platforms on November 1, 2023.


Rock musician that refuses to find a niche


FFO: Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World


Biggest influences are church, his mother, Coheed & Cambria, Acceptance, James Morrison, Bombay Bicycle Club, Disturbed, Arctic Monkeys, Young The Giant, Chevelle, Rusko, Chief and Matt Corby. Most of the music he listens to has a darker sound to it so he in turn makes darker, melodic music.


Datagram has been the moniker of shapeshifting Tampa musician Scott Olson for the better part of the last decade.

In that time, the sound and styles of this project have shifted and morphed, painting with shades of glitch, downtempo, techno, and all that lurks in between.

Shevonne and the Force

A multi-hyphenate, genre-bending artist, Shevonne Philidor is a singer-songwriter, producer, and actress who epitomizes her dynamic background in music and performing arts. A military brat born in Philadelphia, PA, she experienced living in multiple cities – including a stint in Italy – before landing in Tampa, Fl, where she nurtured her musical ability throughout her childhood. She’s a scion of a musical family stemming from her half-Haitian descent and taught herself to play the guitar at an early age, inspired by the likes of Prince, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, and M83. In 2003, she made her first TV debut on America’s Most Talented Kids, and in 2010, she made an appearance on America’s Got Talent Wild Card. A recipient of the prestigious NFAA scholarship, she also made American Idol’s top 40 twice in 2016 and 2019, the same year she performed at Austin City Limits with five-time Grammy award-winning artist Gary Clark jr. In 2021, she performed alongside CeeLo Green at a Superbowl party for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was tapped to sing for ABC’s Juneteenth celebration with T.I. and Domani. Working with Grand Hustle Records, she’s a Luna Guitar-endorsed artist who was also selected to perform in Just Blaze’s SXSW showcase in 2022. A theatre kid at heart, she’s flexed her acting skills on a national tour for Todrick Hall’s musical, Oz The Musical, and she was also recently casted in Life’s Rewards, an upcoming Amazon Prime TV show.

Kristopher James

Though he’s lived in the Sunshine State, for most of his life, Kristopher’s talent for melody and song (now) extend far past the state’s line. Like his influencers Otis Redding, Amos Lee, and Roberta Flack, Kristopher’s voice is clear, controlled, and full of all-the-feels.  As with all artists, Kristopher’s sound has ebbed and flowed, evolving yet remaining instantly recognizable. With the growth he’s experienced as an artist, Kristopher felt it was time to capture his songs, in their fully-imagined sound!

With his debut album “Kindness Never Quits”, featuring members of Scary Pockets, Kristopher caught the attention of Relix & Glide Magazine, Spotify Playlist curators and continued praise, such as “vocals are so powerful and as the song progresses, he showcases why he is one of the best singers out there. All that soul in one artist is just unbelievable” from Reignland Magazine.

Continuing through the COVID years, Kristopher partnered with musicians to keep the music and community alive. Along with composer and keys player Mike Hicks of Rascal Flatts, The War & Treaty’s Max Brown on guitar, as well as talented artists Kyshona Armstrong, Jonathan Huber, DeMarco Johnson, Kristopher released 3 acclaimed singles: “Never Had to Find Our Way”, “Feelings” and “I Can Only Love You in a Song”

Deaf Company

Three piece Rock n Roll band hailing from St. Petersburg, FL.

Skyler Golden

Musician from St. Pete Florida and Studio Producer for Zen Recording. Brings an eclectic sound of string instruments for the Yoga Classes at GFA 2024


From Tampa Florida, SydLive was born to write and sing songs that touch the world. As her mother recalls, her climb to stardom began with getting on top of restaurant tables to sing at the age of two.

By the time she was eleven, she acquired her first guitar and began to teach herself to play by learning Beatles songs. Within four years she found her way to the stage singing in a Carpenters tribute band. Since this time, Syd has amassed over a decade of experience as a professional singer/songwriter and recording/performance artist. Within the industry, she names Aretha Franklin as her idol.


The first sound you hear on Durry’s rambunctious and poignant debut album, Suburban Legend, is an old-school Internet dial-up tone. To songwriter Austin Durry, the sound is instantly familiar but his bandmate and sister, Taryn, hadn’t heard it before. The Burnsville, Minnesota-based duo might identify with different age groups — with seven years between them, Austin is a millennial and Taryn is Gen Z — but by joining forces in Durry, they show just how much the neighboring generations have in common.

Between their serendipitous origin story and a crop of dynamic, hook-heavy alt-pop tracks, Durry are doing something few bands can achieve — and they’re doing it entirely on their own terms. As a band, Taryn and Austin’s journey happened both unexpectedly and fortuitously. At the start of the COVID pandemic, Austin and his wife moved back into his parents’ house, where Taryn was also living at the time. In addition to moving back in with his family, COVID forced Austin to cancel an extensive tour with his previous band, Coyote Kid. Faced with nothing but time, he got back to songwriting, regularly asking Taryn for input — or as the two playfully put it, “Gen Z quality control.”

“I’d say, here’s an early concept, what do you think? Then she’ll steer the ship, and then I’ll evolve it from there,” Austin explains. “Taryn is the sounding board and Gen Z vision of the band, where I’m kinda cranking stuff out.”

As they got going, forming what would turn into Durry, the siblings also outlined DIY ideas for branding and promotion, creating all of their own content and imbuing their visuals with nostalgic golden yellow, large fonts, and tactile images that would later make their way into eye-catching merch.

The immediate result of their musical partnership was the pop-punk/alternative anthem “Who’s Laughing Now,” which leads with wry, tongue-in-cheek lyrics about the futility of young adulthood in 2023: “My mama always said I would regret it if I ever got a tattoo,” Austin chants, adding: “She said I’d never get a job like I ever wanted one with that attitude/ My dad said I had to learn to drive a stick shift, but every van I ever had was an automatic/ My friends said that someday I would make it big, but I’m still living in the basement.”

After posting an unfinished version of “Who’s Laughing Now” on TikTok, it swiftly took off, galvanizing thousands of viewers who shared their coming-of-age frustrations. Clearly, the song’s sentiments — which land somewhere between a shrug and a clenched fist — resonated with millions of listeners, and today the song has garnered more than four million Spotify streams. Meanwhile, Durry have recorded a fully fleshed-out version of “Who’s Laughing Now,” which is set to appear on their riveting, perfectly sardonic debut LP, Suburban Legend.