Study: SF Arts Organizations Generate $1.7 Billion in Economic Activity

As COVID restrictions begin to lift, the reopening of San Francisco’s nonprofit arts and cultural organizations will be welcome news to the millions of residents and visitors who haven’t been able to visit an art gallery or attend a theater performance in over a year. The reopening also means a return to the economic activity that these nonprofit arts and cultural organizations contribute to the city. A new report released today (March 11) by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute finds that pre-COVID these organizations generated $1.7 billion in economic activity annually and supported the equivalent of almost 37,000 jobs in San Francisco.

“San Francisco has one of the deepest and most diverse artistic communities in the nation, second only perhaps to New York,” said Sean Randolph, Senior Director at the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and principal author of the study. “That contributes in important ways to the fabric and quality of the city and to what makes it unique. The arts indirectly contribute to important business sectors such as restaurants and tourism, but also to the creativity that is one of its hallmarks. They will also play an important role as we emerge from Covid and reconnect to each other and our community.”

Read the full report>>

The report also found that the city’s investment in these organizations—through a wide range of grants and programs like the San Francisco Arts Commission and Grants for the Arts Program—pay off big in economic returns. Every $1 million that the city invests in nonprofit art and cultural organizations generates $17.5 million in economic output and supports 385 jobs.

Arts and culture events attracted over 10.8 million attendees to San Francisco in 2019, many from outside the Bay Area and California. According to the study, arts- and culture-related spending by non-San Francisco residents generated over $655 million in total economic output. The city provided $15.3 million in grants that year, supporting nearly $600 million in annual expenditures and close to 30,000 total jobs directly connected to the arts.

The report highlights the mutually beneficial relationship between the arts and the city of San Francisco, the positive effects that these grants and programs have on the city’s economy and the strong correlation between tourism and the arts. Because of a heavy reliance on visitors, packed events and live performances, the arts and entertainment sector is among the most deeply impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The report also studies the impact of Covid-related shutdowns on the city’s large and small arts organizations, including cultural institutions, museums, performing arts and festivals, as well as strategies they are incorporating to survive.

Additionally, the study assesses in detail the non-economic contributions of arts organizations to the fabric of the city and its diverse communities through educational and other programs. The full report is available online at

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