Creative MN study: Arts have $2 million impact on Rock County

LUVERNE -- Artists and nonprofit arts and culture organizations in 2016 generated nearly $20 million in the 18 counties that comprise the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, according to a study by Creative Minnesota. One-tenth of that economic imp...

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LUVERNE - Artists and nonprofit arts and culture organizations in 2016 generated nearly $20 million in the 18 counties that comprise the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, according to a study by Creative Minnesota. One-tenth of that economic impact  - $2 million - is generated in Rock County.

City leaders and members of the art community gathered Tuesday night at Luverne’s newest haven for the arts - the Lord Grizzly Gallery in the Coffey Contemporary Arts Building on Main Street - to hear the results of the Rock County study. The report was presented by Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and chairperson of the Creative MN Project.

Louella Voigt, president of Blue Mound Area Theatre (BMAT), spearheaded the Rock County study, gathering data from 19 different entities and organizations who promote the arts, from theatre groups and foundations to churches, community education, the library and the historical society.

“I want people to have confidence in the value of their contribution and to justify additional requests for money,” Voigt said of her push to have the study completed. “The arts are very important - very impactful to us in many ways.”

Between July 2013 and June 2017, more than $17,000 in arts grants were awarded to artists, presenters and organizations in Rock County. Those grants, as well as the dollars spent by people on arts and cultural events, help to make Rock County a place where people want to live or visit, Voigt shared.


Mayor Pat Baustian said a lot of people with a passion for the arts work in the trenches to help make Luverne what it is, noting the $1 million fundraising drives in the last decade for the Palace Theatre and The History Center.

The $1 million drive for The History Center wasn’t included in the study because it would have heavily skewed the results, noted Smith.

Some of the key points in Smith’s presentation show:

  • Rock County is home to 85 artists and creative workers, classified as people who work in careers ranging from choir directors to fine artists, crafters, graphic and interior designers, dancers, actors, choreographers, writers, musicians and photographers, among others. There are 104,000 artists and creative workers statewide, with the No. 1 creative occupation being photographer (more than 16,000 people).
  • Rock County, with a population of 9,600, served 55,576 attendees for arts and culture events in 2016, while providing arts and cultural activities for 6,402 students. That means each student in the Luverne School District attends an average of six arts and culture events per year.
  • Spending on arts and cultural events averages $19.77 per person in Rock County, not including the cost for admission.
  • 27 percent of audiences are non-local people who spend 80 percent more than locals during a visit for such things as gas and hotel rooms, as well as stops at restaurants and bars.
  • Nonprofit arts organizations in Rock County spend nearly $600,000 annually.
  • Statewide, the annual economic impact by the arts and culture is $2 billion. It’s more than double the arts economy of Wisconsin, which has approximately the same population (5.5 million), and 12½ times the arts economy of South Dakota.

Smith said artists need space to work, connect, learn, earn and develop an audience, and she encouraged leaders in Rock County to consider those as they move their community forward.
“Artists like to connect with each other and connect with their community,” she said. “Younger artists are hungry for skills, and older artists want to pass skills on to the next generation.”

Smith suggested creating opportunities for the arts, such as offering classes that bring people to the community for a three-, five- or seven-day stay.

Creative MN has 15 study areas in the state. Smith said of those areas, Rock County ranks 14th in population, but third in economic impact per capita for arts and culture.

For more details about the study, visit

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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