Art, culture are part of our community’s fabric


By Dalouge Smith and Dr. Hugh M. Davies

The arts and culture play a vital role in our lives and have a positive economic impact on San Diego. Arts institutions throughout the city and especially here in La Jolla nurture our minds, educate our children, and represent a vibrant industry important to our region’s economic health, quality of life, and appeal as a visitor destination.

Arts and culture organizations are deeply embedded in our community’s fabric, and are major players in San Diego’s vital tourism industry, including in District 1 where La Jolla is home to countless cultural venues that attract visitors from all over the world - from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla Playhouse, and Birch Aquarium to the La Jolla Music Society, UCSD Stuart Collection, La Jolla Historical Society, and La Jolla Athenaeum, to name just a few.

According to local data, the City of San Diego attracts 2 million cultural visitors annually who make their travel decisions based on our arts and culture attractions. They stay longer and spend more money than the average tourist. The recent Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum ranks behind only the Super Bowl, the U.S. Open, and the 1996 Republican National Convention in generating tourist dollars for San Diego. Overall, the economic impact of cultural tourism and the “creative industries” on our City has been estimated at nearly $500 million annually. And, according to a new report from the nationally-based Americans for the Arts, San Diego has seen a 22 percent increase in its creative industries sector over last year, 10 percent higher than the national average.

Beyond economic impact, arts and culture serve the community in many other ways. The arts help nurture creative minds and improve overall academic performance for our schoolchildren, and the arts and culture organizations annually serve tens of thousands of children and educators in every neighborhood of the city, including La Jolla. The arts are thus a priceless cultural asset for the future of our community.

In order to stay vibrant, our city’s arts and culture institutions require support from a broad mix of benefactors: individual donors, corporations, foundations, the federal and state governments, and local government. The San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture provides funding for some 100 organizations throughout the community, including many in La Jolla.

Five years ago, the city council and the mayor wisely allocated 1 cent of the 10.5 cents generated by the TOT (Transient Occupancy Taxes, the “hotel taxes” paid by tourists on their hotel rooms) for arts and culture. However, since then the allocation has been whittled away, reduced now to 50 percent of its previous level. Every dollar in TOT investment in the arts yields a whopping $23 returned back to the city in direct expenditures, thus demonstrating the unique benefit of arts and culture to San Diego as a whole.

The San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition has polled all candidates for city council and made the results public online at:

  1. In partnership with the San Diego League of Women Voters, the coalition is hosting several candidates’ forums on the subject, including a forum for District 1, on Sept. 23 at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center Jacobs Family Campus. Candidates Sherri Lightner and Phil Thalheimer have been invited to attend.
We all want to see a healthy San Diego economy, and the arts can play an important role in that regard. The coalition urges all voters to weigh the economic, cultural, and civic importance of support for the arts and to cast their votes accordingly.

Dalouge chairs the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition and is president and CEO of the San Diego Youth Symphony & Conservatory. Davies is the David C. Copley director of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.