News

New study details economic impact Krasl Art Center and Krasl Art Fair have on community

St. Joseph, MI – May 12, 2022 – A new study examining the economic impact Krasl Art Center (KAC) and the Krasl Art Fair (KAF) have on the region reveals that through its efforts, the organization delivers significant financial value to the local economy. This is in addition to the important social, artistic, and quality of life benefits the community enjoys as part of the overall Krasl Art Center mission.
The study, conducted by Christian Glupker of the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, outlines an infusion of $4.9 million into the Berrien County economy because of Krasl Art Center and Art Fair activities, while supporting 45 jobs.
“Commitment to the community is at the center of our mission. The findings from this study affirm the value of KAC, and all the arts, to the economic health and vitality of our county. Not to mention the deep and meaningful social benefit the arts hold for our community members,” stated Krasl Art Center Executive Director Julia Gourley Donohue.
The study is based on data collected in 2021 through surveys of KAC visitors, Krasl Art Fair visitors, and Krasl Art Fair artists. Respondents were asked about how much money they spent during their visit, how many days they spent in the community, and the number of people in their party. The value generated by KAC and the Art Fair includes direct spending by visitors, indirect spending by area businesses to support the delivery of goods and services to those visitors, and operational expenditures made by KAC.
Economic Impact of the Krasl Art Fair
The study shows the Krasl Art Fair to be an important driver of consumer spending and tourism in southwest Michigan. Last year, the two-day mid-July event held in St. Joseph’s Lake Bluff Park generated $1.2 million in economic impact through the activities of 14,011 visitors and 150 artists.
When compared to other art fairs, festivals, and special sporting events throughout Michigan, the Krasl Art Fair matches or exceeds daily economic impact levels.
Of survey respondents:
  • Two-thirds stated that their primary reason for visiting St. Joseph was the Art Fair
  • More than half (57 percent) were from outside Berrien County, the majority of whom were first-time visitors
  • 85 percent said they would be “very likely” to revisit St. Joseph because of their Art Fair experience
  • The average spending on meals, lodging, shopping, transportation, and art fair purchases was $79 per visitor, per day, performing as well as or better than similar events in Michigan
  • 27 percent of artists extended their stay in the community beyond the dates of the Art Fair
  • 66 percent of artists want to return to the community
“These results are particularly notable when you consider that we scaled back the 2021 Krasl Art Fair compared to pre-pandemic years,” stated Gourley Donohue.
Additionally, KAC staff reimagined the event following the 2020 pandemic hiatus. By transforming the Art Fair into a more sustainable activity, it now serves as a fundraiser for KAC through the introduction of a modest admission fee that augments vital corporate sponsorships and member funding.
The event also is a catalyst bringing area residents, visitors, sponsors, artists, and businesses together in unique ways. Longtime Art Fair sponsor Signature Toyota of Benton Harbor is just one example of community connections made as a result of Art Fair participation.
“Supporting the Krasl Art Fair is a way for us to give back to the community. In the process, it gives us the opportunity to strengthen our ties to the community,” stated Signature Toyota General Manager Bill Crowder. “In the past we’ve brought cars downtown and put them on display at the Art Fair. That always sparks great conversations and new connections. In fact, one year, we sold a car on the spot.”
A more recent sponsor of the event, 1st Source Bank Wealth Advisory Services Senior Vice President, Chris Strafford shared, “Sponsoring and participating in the Krasl Art Fair is a great way for us to support the community. Our investment in the arts reinforces our commitment to help build good places to live, work and raise our families. We have also found that it is an excellent way to bring people of all ages to southwest Michigan to enjoy art in a beautiful setting. The results of this study further enhance why we chose to be the presenting sponsor of the event.”
Economic Impact of Krasl Art Center
Viewed separately in the report are the economic contributions KAC makes to the region. Gallery visits to Krasl Art Center generates and supports an estimated $3.6 million in annual economic impact. This amount is derived from three sources:
  • Economic activity supported by casual KAC visitors from outside Berrien County
  • Spending by primary KAC visitors from outside Berrien County
  • KAC spending on operations
  • The Art Center’s economic impact is driven by non-local, casual visitors. Casual visitors are those who visit the community for other reasons but who include Krasl Art Center as part of their overall experience while in town.
Key metrics based on the study:
  • 23 percent of survey respondents were in St. Joseph primarily to visit Krasl Art Center
  • 77 percent are categorized as casual visitors who were in St. Joseph for other reasons and who enriched their time in town by visiting Krasl Art Center
  • 76 percent of casual Krasl Art Center visitors came from outside Berrien County
  • The majority of respondents (57 percent) were first-time visitors to Krasl Art Center
  • Krasl Art Center’s operational spending impact totals $1.4 million per year and supports 9 jobs
“It is affirming to see data reflecting the importance of KAC and KAF as integral to tourism. Visitors are compelled by artistic experiences and the creative landscape inspires them to want to return,” Gourley Donohue added.
What the report cannot measure is the social, cultural, and personal impact Krasl Art Center and Krasl Art Fair have on people of all ages through classes, outreach, and special events, the sharing of visual art through gallery exhibitions, and through public, outdoor art.
Based on data from 2020 to April 2022, KAC has impacted 217 Michigan Artists, over 580 families and over 1,742 children (ages 18 and under) have enjoyed free programming. Keep in mind these are basically COVID numbers, so probably lower than usual.
Anna Petlick, St. Joseph native, KAC student through high school, current Grand Rapids artist shared, “The Krasl has been a staple in my life from childhood all the way through the most vital years of my young adulthood. While I enjoyed the kids camps my parents took me to when I was little, it was the start of high school when my love and appreciation for the Krasl really blossomed. Through Krasl Art Center, I gained a safe space, sense of purpose, improved self esteem, wonderful mentors, and lifelong friends.”
“The people make Krasl so special. I would not be who I am, or where I am today, without having Krasl in my community and life. As I’ve moved in the decade after I got involved with the Krasl, I continue to realize how unique and amazing of a resource it is. I truly hope Krasl continues to grow and thrive for decades to come like the people it impacts,” added Petlick.
Looking forward
Krasl Art Center leadership plans to continue this type of specific and intentional data-driving examination of organizational activities to ensure that staff and financial resources provide the most impact. In 2022, this will include new surveys of visitors and Art Fair artists.
The 60th Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff featuring 172 artists will be held in St. Joseph on Saturday, July 9, and Sunday, July 10, 2022. On Friday, July 8, Krasl will host a Block Party to kick off the weekend’s festivities. General admission Art Fair passes are on sale for $5; children 3 – 10 years of age $3; and children under 3 are admitted for free. More information about the Krasl Art Center and the upcoming Art Fair is available at krasl.org.
About Krasl Art Center:
Krasl Art Center is a nonprofit art museum and learning center that enriches the lives of people living in or visiting Southwest Michigan by delivering enlightening art experiences through diverse education opportunities, meaningful events, and high quality exhibits and collections. KAC’s mission is to inspire meaningful change and strengthen community through the visual arts. To learn more, visit krasl.org.
The Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff is the flagship fundraiser for Krasl Art Center. The event welcomes artists to scenic Lake Bluff Park to exhibit and sell their artwork the second weekend of July every year. Artists are juried into the event, creating one of the region’s largest high-end outdoor art experiences. The 2021-2022 events are presented by 1st Source Bank Wealth Advisory Services. To learn more, visit krasl.org/art-fair/event-information.