The Puget Sound’s vital arts sector needs more support to nurture the region’s culture and economy.

Share story

THE Federal Way Symphony performs often in a church because the city lacks a proper venue for such events.

That will change in mid-2017 when a 700-seat, 41,000-square-foot performing-arts hall and events center is expected to open. Residents spent more than two decades pushing for the venue and city leaders joined them.

Theirs is a sophisticated investment in the arts and shrewd acknowledgment of the community benefits. Arts — whether the Federal Way Symphony, Issaquah’s Village Theatre or Pacific Northwest Ballet — enhances the region’s culture and quality of life, while boosting the economy.

The arts sector in King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties generated $2.4 billion in business activity and supported more than 35,000 jobs in 2014, according to a study by ArtsFund, a Seattle nonprofit that funds arts groups.

About one-third of what people spend on the arts goes to tickets and admission costs, while the other two-thirds goes to expenses, such as restaurants, transportation, hotels, retail and child care.

About 30 percent of the economic activity came from outside this region, proving that performances, museums and artists are a significant tourist draw.

Federal Way leaders are following the smart forward-thinking of cities such as Bellevue and Kirkland that have employed arts to help fuel a downtown revitalization.

The Federal Way facility will anchor the city’s 21-acre town center development that includes an adjacent four-acre park, land for a future hotel and mixed-use retail and office complex.

The city has secured close to $18 million, including its own contribution — $2 million from King County, other grants and donations. Nearly $15 million is also needed to cover the full cost of the arts center. King County’s contribution is part of more than $28 million in grants to fund arts venues using proceeds from bond sales that will be paid off using the county lodging tax.

Supporting the arts might seem like the purview of millionaire philanthropists and corporations, but all people support economic activity when they purchase tickets for events, buy artwork and donate to their favorite arts group.