The state of culture in Philadelphia

About half of the region’s cultural institutions are operating on a deficit, but they’ve gotten an unexpected amount of support from their own audiences. That is according to he first economic survey of the area’s cultural organizations since the recession.

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance tracked 405 organizations in the region to take a barometer reading of the creative economy from 2007 to 2009. Not surprisingly, results were grim.

In aggregate, investment portfolios plummeted from $2.3 billion to $1.9 billion. Donations from corporations dropped 36 percent.

The upshot is audiences increased. Ticket revenue went up 10 percent over pre-recession levels, while the average price per ticket remained more or less the same, about $15. Donations from individuals rose 20 percent as audiences stepped up to the plate.

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“They demonstrate that through their volunteerism, the demonstrate it through their purchase of tickets, and through their contributions,” said Tom Kaiden, president of the Cultural Alliance. “That was a really powerful message that came out of this. It wasn’t enough to offset the impact of the recession, but individuals set the highest tone for all of us.”

Workers in the arts sector took a hit as organizations laid off employees, preferring contract labor. Less than 40 percent of workers are full-time.

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