Economic Overview of the Arts in the ACT


Does music move you? Are you absorbed by poetry? Do you find cinema thought provoking? The great value of the arts lies in the intrinsic effect it has on individuals and the community in terms of inspiring creativity.

The ACT is home to a flourishing arts community with a wide spectrum of activity including visual arts and crafts, music, literature, dance, theatre, film, digital arts and community arts. Canberra hosts many exciting art festivals and exhibitions attracting visitors from across the country, as well as being home to artists, art organisations, theatres, galleries, concert halls, public art and arts hubs.

In addition to the intrinsic benefits of the arts, the arts and cultural sector contributes to the ACT economy in a range of direct and indirect ways.

This report provides an overview of the arts sector in the ACT from an economic perspective. It has been prepared to inform the ACT Government in its support for the arts sector.

The ACT Arts Policy Framework was developed following the 2009 Loxton Review and released in July 2012. The Framework was reviewed to ensure that ACT Government policy remains responsive to changes in the arts sector. The 2015 ACT Arts Policy released on 30 June 2015 has a revised vision for the arts “to be a diverse and dynamic arts ecology valued locally, nationally and globally”.

Among the key indicators which the ABS uses to measure wellbeing and societal progress are attendance at cultural venues and events, and participation in selected cultural activities. Details are published in Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat. no. 4172.0).

The figure below shows the groups of activities identified as creative based on David Throsby, a well known cultural economist, whose books on Economics and Culture have become standard reference in the field. At the centre are the domains considered to produce the highest degree of creative content in their output relative to their commercial value.

Hierachy of Creative Industry

Some cultural goods and services have creative or artistic elements that are tangible, such as artwork or publications, while others are intangible services, such as musical performance or museum visitations. Some are final goods that are supplied to consumers, such as radio and video broadcasts or a theatre performance, while others are intermediate goods, such as the preparation of sets for film or theatre productions.

Cultural outputs – the goods and services produced – have in common with all other industry outputs – utilization of labour and capital as well as intermediate goods and services.



In 2012–13 the direct output of the arts and cultural sector in the ACT was estimated to be $974m of which the arts were responsible for $361m.

Value Added

The arts and culture sector directly added $426m of value to the ACT’s economy in 2012–13. This was equivalent to 1.3% of total value added by industry. Of this, $162m was associated with the arts.


There were 6,456 persons employed in the arts and cultural sector in the ACT in 2011. This was equivalent to 3.1% of ACT employment.

Household Expenditure

Canberrans have an appetite to pay for cultural activities, spending approximately $211m per year, which is a higher per capita level than other capital cities.

Local Participation

In 2013–14 nearly 350,000 people attended events at venues such as the Canberra Theatre Centre or Canberra Museum and Gallery. In 2013, more than 412,000 people attended events hosted by arts organisations supported by artsACT.

Cultural Tourism

Close to 729,000 domestic and 128,000 international cultural tourists visited the ACT in the year to September 2014. Their total spending was estimated to be worth $855m.

Creative Industries

As of June 2014, the ACT had nearly 1,200 active businesses in the creative industries.


The ACT has more than 3,000 higher education students studying the creative arts. In addition to course fees, these students are estimated to spend $62m per year.

You can download the full PDF version of the document here:

Economic Overview Cover