Any night of the week might find Miami lawyer Ali Mora attending events for organizations like LegalArt, Miami Light Project or the New World Symphony — all groups that either she or her friends support.
“The opportunities are endless,” said Mora, 30, who grew up in Miami and moved back in 2008 after college and law school. “There’s always been culture, but I think the arts culture is something that’s becoming more and more important, especially to young professionals.”
Miami’s reputation as a growing arts scene got a boost recently with a new national report showing that spending as a result of nonprofit arts and culture organizations in the community nearly hit $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2010. That counts direct and indirect expenditures by the organizations themselves as well as by their audiences.
The study, a project of the arts advocacy organization Americans for the Arts, says more than 13.5 million people attended arts and culture events in Miami from Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011.
Despite the impact of the recession, those figures — both in total spending and attendance — are higher than the totals reported the last time the survey was released, in 2007, though average audience spending dropped slightly. The last Miami report, based on information collected between 2004-05, showed $922 million in arts-related spending with 12.7 million attendees.
The findings were released Friday at the organization’s annual convention in San Antonio.
Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade cultural affairs department, said the numbers in Miami bucked a national trend, which saw a drop in expenditures from $166.2 billion in 2005 to $135.2 billion in 2010 due to waning attendance and audience spending.
Broward County too showed gains, with nearly $230 million in total expenditures in 2010 compared to $154 million in 2005 and nearly 4.9 million attendees, up from 3.4 million reported in the last survey.
“I’m really thrilled,” said Jody Leshinsky, community development director for the Broward County Cultural Division. “It’s amazing that we were still able to grow in a slow economy.”
Miami’s growth can be attributed in part to the new venues that have opened since the last study, including the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in 2006 and the New World Symphony’s new building, which opened in early 2011.
“It just shows that there is an incredible energy and vibrancy to our arts scene here and that we’re growing,” Spring said. “We all know that we’re putting the building blocks in place for a great international arts city.”
Mike Eidson, chairman of the Arsht Center’s board of directors, said a thriving arts community is “good for the soul.
“Going to attend cultural events at places like the Arsht Center is a good thing for making people feel like they’re part of a viable community, part of an exciting community,” he said. “They don’t want to just sit at home. They’re not just going to bars.’’
The New World Symphony, in its new Frank Gehry-designed building, is selling more tickets than ever, president Howard Herring said. And innovative approaches to content and formats — such as shorter concerts or late-night events — are creating new fans, Herring said.
“That new audience is returning, based on ticket sales” for the upcoming season, he said.
Additional methods for funding the arts have also opened up since the last report, including the Knight Arts Challenge in Miami. Since 2008, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded $40 million in grants to local organizations while requiring $20 million in matching funds for some of those grants.
“I would say that I was pleasantly surprised that our community continues to grow and to become a cultural destination,” said Dennis Scholl, the organization’s vice president/arts. “We at the Knight Foundation feel it in the community every day and have tried to be a catalyst for that movement in the community. But it’s always nice when the anecdotal feeling that you have by being out in the community is confirmed by hard data.”
The next report, Spring said, should be even better. By then, two new county museums will have opened in the bayfront Museum Park. The Pérez Art Museum Miami is due to open in late 2013; the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is slated to open in 2015.
“We’ll see even more growth, I’m imagining, in the next version of this,” he said. “Which again is all part of the trend, that we’re a city on the upswing and that the arts community is leading the charge in building not just vibrancy but the economic effect of the arts.”