Why You Should Start Planning “Fair Saturday” in Your City

Supporting arts and culture initiatives like the Fair Saturday movement allows your city to take advantage of a $730 billion industry that creates strong, vibrant communities, employs local workers, attracts tourism, and boosts local economic development.

Summer in cities is marked by community gatherings, farmers’ markets and a buzz of outdoor activities. In many places, this means local arts and culture are on full display — but that excitement often dies down in the winter months. For cities looking to capture this energy year-round, consider joining the Fair Saturday movement to promote arts, culture and community giving this November.

Fair Saturday, launched in Bilbao, Spain in 2015, is a multinational festival of culture planned for the last Saturday in November. The movement seeks to bring together artists, performance venues and city residents to create positive social impacts. In 2016, sixty-six cities around the globe hosted 354 unique shows, exhibits and concerts by 7,500 artists and raised roughly $116,000 for charitable causes and social projects.

The movement has already captured attention in Europe and in Latin America. The creators of Fair Saturday offer the initiative as an effort to “hold on to art and culture and being.” Culture helps create, grow, restore, and develop humanism and brings together communities with different identities. The mass mobilization of people around art and culture serves to reinforce the essential value of the arts and creates a pathway for crowdsourcing funds for important social causes.

For those only moved by economic arguments, consider these facts collected by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit educational resource for arts organizations. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), nonprofit and for-profit arts organizations represent a $730 billion industry that directly employs 4.8 million workers. This is equal to 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP — a larger share of the economy than transportation, tourism and agriculture. Arts organizations are resilient and entrepreneurial businesses. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from within their communities, and market and promote their regions. Because arts businesses are rooted locally, these are jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.

In terms of export value, arts and culture industries posted a $30 billion international trade surplus in 2014, according to the BEA. American exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) exceeded $60 billion. Arts drive tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences, and arts destinations grow local economies by attracting foreign visitor spending. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that, between 2003 and 2015, the percentage of international travelers including “art gallery and museum visits” on their trip grew from 17 to 29 percent, and the share attending “concerts, plays, and musicals” increased from 13 to 16 percent.

So whether as a means to advance the arts for their own sake, or to support local artists and local charities, or to grow economic prosperity by leveraging cultural assets, city leaders should explore the value of Fair Saturday — and start planning now to join the movement this November.

Featured image: Fair Saturday was launched in the city of Bilbao in northern Spain. Above, the Nervion River, the Puente de la Salve and the Guggenheim Museum. (Getty Images)

About the author: Jim Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.