How do you gauge the value of acquiring critical-thinking skills, or the worth of inspiring the kind of creativity that leads to innovation?
These are among the intangibles that make it challenging to assess the value of the arts in Montana.
But there is no denying the impact Montana’s growing population of artists is having on the economy. One in every 60 Montanans is an artist, according to a recent study by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.
The category of artists includes writers, photographers, craftsmen, fine artists and performers. In 2010, there were 8,780 artists working in Montana, which is more than the number of people working in the information industry (7,450) or the mining industry (6,862), according to a 2012 study by the state. An earlier study, conducted by Montana State University Billings in 2005, suggested the economic impact of Montana artists was $233 million.
The art of selling art
As the Yellowstone Art Museum prepares for its 46th annual art auction on March 1, Executive Director Robyn Peterson anticipates generating $400,000. The museum is counting on the auction to bring in 20 to 25 percent of its annual budget of $1.8 million. And most of those buyers live in Montana, Peterson said.