Nonprofits Economy Stage

Arts, Culture Groups Have $25M Impact on E.C. Economy, Survey Says

study estimates that nonprofit arts groups’ impact has more than doubled in recent years

Tom Giffey, photos by Mike O'Brien |

SCENE FROM THE STAGE. The RCU Theatre at the Pablo Center at the Confluence during the 2019 Eau Claire Jazz Festival.
SCENE FROM THE STAGE. The RCU Theatre at the Pablo Center at the Confluence during the 2019 Eau Claire Jazz Festival.

Poets and painters will tell us that art is good for the soul. They’re also good for the pocketbook – at least according to figures gathered in Eau Claire as part of a nationwide survey of the economic and social impact of the arts.

The City of Eau Claire was one of 373 communities across all 50 states to be selected as part of the Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 study, which was released earlier this month by Americans for the Arts, a nationwide nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. Locally, the study included survey data gathered from 18 nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Eau Claire – including mainstays such as the Pablo Center at the Confluence, the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, and the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre – as well as from surveys of individual Pablo Center patrons.

According to the study, total direct economic activity attributed to nonprofit arts groups in Eau Claire during the 2022 fiscal year amounted to $25.3 million. By comparison, a similar survey conducted in 2015 found that total direct economic activity from local arts groups was $10.3 million – indicating a 145% increase in only seven years.

The study found that spending by arts groups and their audiences in the 2022 fiscal year created an estimated 804 jobs in Eau Claire and generated more than $16.2 million in personal income. (The 2015 survey estimated an impact of 393 jobs and $8.7 million in personal income.)

Jason Jon Anderson, executive director of the Pablo Center, said he was “reassured and encouraged” by the results of the study. “When you see that both our community and those visiting from outside the community are that engaged with the presentations that are happening in Eau Claire … it affirms the investment that the state, county, and city made in this facility,” Anderson said.

it affirms the investment that the state, county, and city made in this facility.



The Pablo Center, downtown Eau Claire’s primary arts facility, opened in 2018, and was funded by donations from individuals and businesses as well as a total of $23.5 million from the city, county, and state. According to the survey, local nonprofit arts groups and their audiences helped generate $4.4 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue in one year.

“It’s doing what it was meant to do,” Anderson said of this return on the public’s investment in the Pablo Center. “That’s hugely reflective of what we value in this region and this community. We value creative outlets and talented artisans.”

The Arts & Economic Prosperity study also calculated that event-related spending by Eau Claire audiences totaled $11.3 million – more than half of it (or about $6 million) coming from audience members from outside Chippewa and Eau Claire counties. The average audience member spent an average of $34.31 per event on everything from food and drink to overnight lodging to transportation – not including spending on tickets.

Local attendance at nonprofit arts events was estimated at about 230,000, while nonlocal attendance was about 101,000.

Data for the study came from the 18 nonprofit arts groups as well as from surveys completed by nearly 1,000 Pablo Center audience members surveyed between May 2022 and June 2023. It’s important to note that the survey data didn’t include all of the nonprofit arts groups in Eau Claire (only 18 of 47 identified for the study provided information for the survey – although many of those who didn’t participate are relatively tiny or downright inactive). Nor did the study include economic impact data from for-profit businesses, such as major local music festivals like Country Jam and Blue Ox.

Anderson said the study reinforces that the Pablo Center and other arts groups are “heavy hitters in the economy” and that creative endeavors are helping the Chippewa Valley grow. “This is completely affirming of the work we’re doing,” he said of the study’s results, “and should be motivational in the steps moving forward.”

Learn more about the Arts & Economic Prosperity survey at

Arts & Economic Prosperity Survey by the Numbers


Total direct economic activity by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and audiences in Eau Claire during fiscal year 2022.


Total number of jobs crated by arts and culture organizations and their audiences.

$11.4 million

Total event-related expenditures by arts and culture audiences.


Additional spending per audience member, per event, on food, drink, shopping, lodging, etc.


Share of audience members surveyed who agreed that “This venue or facility is an important pillar for me within my community.”

Source: Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 survey