Belleville

Art on the Square economic impact estimated at $30.3 million

Art on the Square puts $30 million into local economy

Art on the Square Executive Director Patty Gregory addresses the art fair's sponsors Thursday at the St. Clair Country Club. She said during the fair's 15-year history on the Public Square in Belleville, it has generated $30.3 million in economic
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Art on the Square Executive Director Patty Gregory addresses the art fair's sponsors Thursday at the St. Clair Country Club. She said during the fair's 15-year history on the Public Square in Belleville, it has generated $30.3 million in economic

Art on the Square in Belleville has generated an estimated $30.3 million economic impact in the region during its first 15 years, organizers announced Thursday.

Patty Gregory, executive director of the art show, said the number is calculated with a formula offered by the Americans for the Arts organization.

The number of visitors to the show is one of the factors used to develop the estimate. In the show’s first year in 2002, an estimated 28,000 people visited but that number has grown to an estimated 80,000 for last year’s show. The growth in attendance figures has been taken into consideration for developing the estimated economic impact, Gregory said.

We know that residual spending can be huge at cultural events.

Patty Gregory, executive director of Art on the Square

“This is residual spending they consider for people who stay in hotels, who buy gas in town, who spend money for lunch or buy at the downtown merchants,” Gregory said.

“We know that residual spending can be huge at cultural events,” Gregory said in her report. “Local visitors spend an average of $29.40 on gas, food and beverages, while out of town visitors spend an average of $39.96.”

Gregory presented a report summarizing the art show’s first 15 years during the annual sponsor’s luncheon at St. Clair Country Club in Belleville. The show has about 30 sponsors from the private and public sectors.

When organizers of the show were seeking sponsors for the first Art on the Square in 2002, Sandy Stolberg recalls working in marketing for CBS Radio in downtown St. Louis. She said the company normally did not sponsor events until they became more established but she persuaded her colleagues to sponsor Art on the Square.

Stolberg, who grew up in Belleville, had a hunch that her hometown would successfully pull off the art show.

“What’s in Belleville?” people would ask her. “And now, when I’m out and about talking to people and I talk about Art on the Square, they say, ‘Oh, Belleville, they’ve got a great downtown.’”

When I’m out and about talking to people and I talk about Art on the Square, they say, ‘Oh, Belleville, they’ve got a great downtown.’ I know that that’s absolutely credited to Art on the Square. That awareness and that buzz, you can’t just put a price on it.

Sandy Stolberg of ILLINOISouth Tourism

“I know that that’s absolutely credited to Art on the Square. That awareness and that buzz, you can’t just put a price on it,” said Stolberg, who is now the sales and marketing manager for ILLINOISouth Tourism, which promotes tourism in 22 Southern Illinois counties and is based in Swansea.

Gregory reported that the estimated economic impact for last year’s show was about $2 million.

Another factor used in calculating the impact includes the nearly $300,000 spent to put on the show. Art on the Square receives about $200,000 worth of in-kind contributions but these are not used in developing the economic impact number.

Gregory said the impact also does not include the money earned by artists who sell artwork during the show.

However, this amount is used to rank shows nationally by Art Fair SourceBook, and Art on the Square is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation for the sales reported by the artists to Art Fair SourceBook in 2015. This was the fifth time the show was ranked No. 1.

In 2015, artists reported sales of over $1.2 million. Rankings for the 2016 shows are expected to be released early next year.

As she looks back to the first 15 years of the show and looks forward to the “sweet 16” version, Gregory gives this summation:

“To tell you the truth, it’s just been pretty overwhelming at times,” she said. “Just to think a town (the size of Belleville) could put on this event that has brought people from all over the world here. And then the national recognition that it’s been given and all the outreach programming. I think that’s a big thing that people did not even realize all the outreach programming that we do.”

The next Art on the Square will be May 19-21 on the Public Square in downtown Belleville. For more information, go to artonthesquare.com.

At a glance

Here are some statistics after 15 years of Art on the Square.

  • Total estimated economic impact: $30.3 million in its 15 years.
  • Pre-purchase art sales total over $1.38 million.
  • Artists have visited more than 130 schools as part of the Artist in Residence program.
  • More than 3,500 students have submitted artwork for the high school exhibition.
  • Since 2007, donors in the Sculpture in the City program have donated 45 sculptures for display throughout the city.
  • More than 7,125 volunteers have supported the show in its 15 years.
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