Student's Research Indicates Arts’ Economic Impact Exceeds $6 Million
Aug. 6, 2015
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Ever since she begin playing trumpet at age 10, Michelle Riechers
’16 (Grant Park, Ill.) has focused most of her musical attention on the performer’s
side of the stage – how well she’s playing and how the music moves her.
Today she’s looking at the arts from the financial aspect. As an Eckley Scholar studying the economic impact of seven arts and culture organizations in McLean County,
Riechers now understands the dollars and cents many artists don’t always fully appreciate.
“As performers, we can get really caught up in what we’re doing and not realize how
our art affects those who are paying their money to see us perform,” said Riechers,
who is majoring in both economics and music. “If people aren’t attending arts and culture events or state funding is cut even
further, this change in economic activity will be felt throughout the region.”
The Eckley Scholars & Artists Program allows meritorious students to remain on campus
over the summer to conduct research or engage in artistic activity under the guidance
of a faculty mentor. Intrigued by the possibility of combining her loves of both music
and economics, she turned to Associate Professor of Economics Diego Mendez-Carbajo
for advice. He suggested a study of the economic impact of the arts in the local community
utilizing IMPLAN, a software widely used for estimating arts and cultural organizations’
Under the mentorship of Mendez-Carbajo, Riechers has found the Illinois Shakespeare
Festival, the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, U.S. Cellular Coliseum,Children’s Discovery Museum, McLean County Arts Center and McLean County Museum of History combined have an average
direct impact of $6.2 million annually. When considering indirect and induced effects,
these organizations contribute, on average, an additional $2.3 million to the McLean
County economy, the researchers said.
“I received a small amount of experience on the business side of music as the manager
of the Illinois Wesleyan Wind Ensemble,” she explained. “Through that experience I
learned about the importance of promotion to get people to come to our concerts, but
this project has really opened my eyes to how much music and economics can relate
to each other.”
“I was thrilled to work with Michelle on this project, as it capitalizes on her talents
across two majors,” Mendez-Carbajo said. “This is an example of the liberal arts at
work that we like to see at IWU.”
Riechers said she is grateful for the opportunity to spend the summer immersing herself
in her two majors. “During the school year I take the classes I need for my two degrees
and that’s really all I can fit in, along with rehearsals for the Illinois Wesleyan
Civic Orchestra and the Wind Ensemble,” she said.
The project has enhanced Riechers’ knowledge of professional organizations such as
a symphony orchestra. Ultimately she aspires to join a company after earning a master’s
degree in trumpet performance.
The Eckley Scholars & Artists program was established by President Emeritus and Mrs.
Robert S. Eckley before President Eckley passed away in 2012. The program is designed
to develop and deepen a student’s creative and research competencies under the guidance
of a faculty member. Eckley Scholars receive a $4,000 stipend and on-campus housing.