An art exhibit at Orlando City Hall displays works by city workers. (Photo by Dave Raith).
ORLANDO – In June, Orlando City Hall’s first floor art gallery began hosting a special exhibit: artwork done almost entirely by city workers.
The 9th Annual Artwork by City Employees and Families exhibit in City Hall’s Terrace Gallery at 400 S. Orange Ave. offers an opportunity for the workers in City Hall to demonstrate they can do more than operate the departments that make up local government.
Called “Orlando City Artwork … art by those who serve,” the exhibit has provided Barbara Elness, who works in the Human Resources Department, to display her photography in “Rustic Fairy House,” and Karen Elzy from the Purchasing Department to show her sculpture, “Which Came First.”
Even the big boss, Mayor Buddy Dyer, contributed one of his own paintings, “Lake Eola Without Cows,” to the exhibit.
As it turns out, this is about more than just creative endeavors as a side hobby for government employees. According to a new national study, Orlando’s very diverse cultural arts community has helped to pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy – the arts, in effect, operating as a form of economic diversity.
A new report by the nonprofit agency Americans for the Arts, examined 182 communities across the nation, and found that the nonprofit arts community has been particularly critical for Orlando — big business, in fact.
According to the Americans for the Arts report, nonprofit arts groups in Orlando have helped to generate about $94 million worth of spending by tourists, residents and nonprofit organizations, while also leading to the support of nearly 3,487 local jobs.
Dyer said this demonstrates that having a thriving arts community isn’t just good for the city’s cultural scene, but also the economy.
“These results confirm that Orlando’s cultural arts groups not only enrich our city’s quality of life, but also mean serious business for our community by providing thousands of jobs and generating millions in revenues,” Dyer said. “In addition to their vital role in the city’s economy, having these cultural amenities continues to make Orlando one of the best places in America to live, work, raise a family and visit.”
According to the study, a lot of this revenue gets generated by activities related to patronizing the arts. For example, people pay to buy tickets to the event, but they also spend money before and after the show on meals or baby-sitting.
That money goes directly into downtown restaurants, shops, theaters, and other venues, and it helps cover the wages paid to local arts employees. In the meantime, the city collects license and user fees from these activities.
In totally, the report notes, Orlando’s nonprofit arts groups help to generate $77 million in household income and $8.6 million in local and state government revenues.
By that standard, the study indicates, Orlando outranks other cities in the same population category – 100,000 to 250,000 residents – in the amount of economic activity generated by nonprofit arts activities. As it turns out, Orlando ranks four times higher than the roughly $24 million median spending generated in similarly populated areas that were examined in the study, including Alexandria, Virginia; Glendale, California and Boise, Idaho.
Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that works to advance the arts in America, also noted that this country’s nonprofit arts and culture industry has grown steadily since the agency’s first analysis back in 1992 – expanding, as it turns out, at a pace that exceeds the rate of inflation.
The nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion in national economic activity every year, and has helps generate 4.1 million full-time jobs in the United States and $22.3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.
Across the entire Central Florida region, nonprofit arts and culture represents a $264 million industry that supports 8,966 full-time equivalent jobs, $200 million in household income and generates $36 million in local and state government revenue.
For more information on Orlando and the Arts & Culture Industry, log on to
To see the Orlando City Artworks exhibit, visit the Terrace Gallery Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., or Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

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