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It may seem tough to measure the economic impact of the performing arts on Bloomington, but a recent study has endeavored to do just that. Conducted by graduate students from the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) on behalf of Cardinal Stage, the study looked at everything from the dollars arts events bring to nearby businesses to the role performances play in enriching our quality of life. 

Focusing specifically on Cardinal Stage, the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, and the Buskirk-Chumley Theater (BCT), the study combined economic data provided by those organizations with a survey of 450 adults in south-central Indiana. The report found that in 2018, those organizations brought $4.6 million to the local economy and supported 161 jobs. 

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The study found that for each ticket purchased for an event, the average patron spends an additional $32.19 on goods and services. 

“It is usually part of a longer, more economically involved evening.” says Gabe Gloden, managing director of Cardinal Stage. Gloden notes that additional money is spent on dinner, child care, parking, drinks after the show, or even a little extra flair in dress. It also helps keep people in town, even when IU is out of session. “We put more heads in beds [during hotels’] off-peak times,” says Gloden. For example, the annual Cardinal Stage holiday show draws 10,000 people to performances at the BCT each December.  

Gabe Gloden. Photo by Rodney Margison

Of those surveyed, 98% said they believe the performing arts add value to the community, and 60% said they would travel to another city to attend performances if Monroe County failed to offer them. “The reason a lot of people choose to stay in Bloomington is that it has a cultural identity,” Gloden says. “I truly believe that the city’s investment in the Waldron and BCT has grown the performing arts independent of the university, and that’s something we should be really proud of.” 

Still, Gloden says, Bloomington is behind other cities in its support for and investment in the arts. “My hope is that this report is just another tool in the toolbox that arts organizations can use to influence public policy and help the community understand why investment in arts and arts infrastructure is a smart investment.”

To see the full report, visit