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Results of Ground-breaking Study Demonstrate Significance of Industry

Charleston, W.Va. – The results of a recent study into the economic impact of the arts and crafts industry show that more than $54 million is contributed to the state economy each year through the sale of arts and crafts in West Virginia.

The study, sponsored by six state arts and crafts organizations and the Small Business Development Division of the West Virginia Development Office, is the first of its kind to measure the arts and crafts industry in West Virginia. (study highlights)

Modeled on the 2001 CODA Survey: The Impact of Crafts on the National Economy, the West Virginia study queried some 2,539 artists and craftspeople in the state about their overall sales, income, studio situations and needs. The findings will be used to demonstrate the significance of the industry as a means of earning a living for thousands of West Virignia residents and lend credibility to the their life’s work. In addition, the results will be helpful in influencing public policy pertaining to the arts, as well as contribute to further investment into this growing sector of our economy.

“Our organizations are working together to foster an industry of culture as a way of preserving the cultural heritage of West Virginia,” said spokesperson Kara Gray of the MountainMade Foundation. “In order to illustrate the importance of this industry, it was imperative that we demonstrate how much of an impact it has on the state’s economy.”

While this study focused solely on the producers of arts and crafts, and did not consider the potential contribution of shops, galleries, craft schools and publications, it is estimated that, when these are included, the comprehensive economic impact of the arts and crafts industry could be more than $81 million.

“When we consider that the average wholesale revenue for a West Virginia craftsperson is more than $10,500 per year, and you add to that a standard retail markup of 100 percent, there is the potential for more than $81 million in sales of arts and crafts each year,” Gray said. “This is an outstanding number, which illustrates that further research is necessary to fully investigate the economy of the crafts industry.”

In addition to further research into the impact of shops and galleries and other related busineses, the study suggests further research into the impact of local and regional guilds and other crafts organizations, as well as tourism generated craft events.

To conduct the study, six arts organizations from around the state collaborated on a joint mailing of surveys to their members and affiliated craftspeople across the state. The collaboration includes: the MountainMade Foundation in Thomas, Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia in Beckley, Poplar Forest Artist Co-op in Sutton, and the Center for Economic Options (Showcase West Virginia), WV Department of Arts, Culture and History and WV Art and Craft Guild, all in Charleston. The West Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) received the surveys and tabulated the results, with economic analysis by Michael J. Hicks, Ph.D., director of research for the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University.

The idea for the study came out of the Building Creative Economies conference held in Asheville, NC last spring. The conference, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Appalachian Regional Commission and a number of other foundations, explored the economic importance of arts and crafts and encouraged states to develop strategies to promote and support this segment of the economy.

The study is modeled after a 2001 survey conducted by the Craft Organization Directors' Association (CODA) which found that the arts and crafts industry contributes more than $14 billion annually to the U.S. economy. According to the CODA results, this data proves to business and government leaders that “craft is a viable and sustainable industry, worthy of investment and support.” The findings validate the arts and crafts industry as a legitimate industry and draw attention to small and home-based businesses.

The survey was funded by the MountainMade Foundation and Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia. Tamarack is an economic development project of the West Virginia Parkways Authority that fosters, enhances and extends the cultural heritage of West Virginia by providing services and opportunities to West Virginia artisans, artists, food producers, authors and performers. is a program of the non-profit MountainMade Foundation of Thomas, WV designed to assist West Virginia artists with marketing and business education opportunities. is partially funded by a grant from the SBA. This U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Grant Award # SBAHQ-02-I-0014 is funded by the SBA. SBA's funding is not an endorsement of any products, opinions, or services. All SBA funded programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

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*Editors Note: A copy of the study is available if desired. Please call Kara Gray at 304-214-9030 or e-mail to [email protected] to request a copy.