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Chicago Loop Alliance
Written By Chicago Loop Alliance

Your resource for things to see and do in the Chicago Loop.


Chicago Loop Alliance, a downtown management organization is in charge to create, manage and promote high-performing urban experiences, attracting people and investment to the Loop. Together with an engaged set of Loop arts organizations, a taskforce was formed to work with professional consultants ArtsMarket, Inc., and HR&A Advisors to better understand the economic impact of the arts in the Loop.

As part of CLA’s efforts to promote economic development and provide services that benefit businesses, individuals and stakeholders within the Loop, CLA seeks to help its members gain a deeper understanding of the impact the large collection of arts and cultural assets in the area have on the Loop economy.


There are two primary ways to capture economic value. The first is the expenditures of the institutions and organizations being studied. The second is the expenditure of the visitors to these institutions, both onsite (admissions, refreshments) and offsite related to the visit. Off-site impacts include spending by visitors on hotels, restaurants, retail purchases, transportation and more.

To construct the model for the Arts in the Loop analysis, this study design was based on data reported by each organization using the IRS Form 990s as filed by all the nonprofit cultural organizations in the Loop. Exact parallel data was obtained from government and for-profit institutions. This data provided consistent categories of institutional spending data along with visitation and employee count information. Visitor information in this study was obtained through an online survey embedded on CLA and arts organizations’ websites and widely promoted.


The Loop arts district had its genesis in the 1880s following the Chicago Fire of 1871. In 1887 the Art Institute of Chicago opened its doors, and the Auditorium Theatre opened two years later. By the end of the decade the Studebaker Theatre – within the Fine Arts Building – had opened. Orchestra Hall followed in 1904, and by the 1920s scores of theaters opened, including the Oriental and the Goodman, with the construction of the Civic Opera House coming to completion in 1929. By the 1980s, many of these theaters had fallen into disrepair, and many had evolved from live entertainment venues to movie theaters. In the 1990s, the Loop Theatre District became its own major destination, featuring the Shubert, Oriental and Cadillac Palace theaters and the Goodman Theatre complex, along with the Gene Siskel Film Center and the restored Chicago Theatre.

In the Loop’s public art realm, a great new era began with the 1967 installation of the Picasso sculpture. In 1978, Chicago became the largest city in the United States – as well as one of the first – to pass a percent for public art ordinance, making it possible to fund additional iconic public art. A major breakthrough in reshaping the Loop as an interconnected cultural zone came in 1998 when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley announced a project that would later be named Millennium Park, which opened in 2004 and which extends Grant Park’s footprint north and includes such cultural gems as Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (“The Bean”) and Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

Today, there are at least 250 cultural assets whose collective presence defines the Loop. The Loop is home to 11 major performing arts and theatrical venues, 13 museums and galleries, scores of performing and visual arts organizations and one of the world’s most iconic outdoor arts venues. And connecting them, this cultural district is home to 120 works of public art, including some of the world’s greatest contemporary as well as historically important works. At its foundation is the built environment of Chicago architecture, where it’s hard to go a block in any direction without encountering at least one worldfamous building. Restaurants flourish in the Loop as theater-goers stream in by the thousands each day. New hotels have been built embracing the arts and theater theme. And new residents have moved to the Loop specifically for the arts.

Economic Impact

This study found that, in total, the Arts in the Loop are responsible for $2.25 billion in economic impact to the Loop and Chicago each year. This includes $1.4 billion from institutions, $600 million from their visitors and $250 million from visitors to public art, who spend their money on meals, retail and transportation. Annually, from these collective impacts, the Arts in the Loop are responsible for driving $113.5 million in Loop restaurant revenue, $81.3 million in Loop real estate revenue, $78 million in hotel revenue, $63 million in Loop retail sales, $43 million in transportation and parking revenue and $40 million in tax revenue ($34 million for the State of Illinois and $6 million for the City of Chicago). The Arts in the Loop also have a major impact on employment in the Loop – arts and cultural institutions are responsible for 15,500 full-timeequivalent (FTE) jobs each year.

One of the most powerful facets of the arts institutions in the Loop is the loyalty they have built among their audiences and visitors. The typical Arts in the Loop visitor comes into the Loop 12 times a year specifically for the arts, visiting 2.2 arts destinations per trip. Seventy-five percent say they would not have made their trips to the Loop if not for the arts. With an average of 2.8 people per visitor group each trip, the Arts in the Loop visitor brings an annual value of thousands of dollars in economic impact to the Loop.

An exciting characteristic of the Arts in the Loop audience is the significant diversity it represents. All geographic segments of the Arts in the Loop audience, except for those coming from beyond the MSA, are at least 5 percent more diverse than the national average. In terms of age, there is a distinct difference between Arts in the Loop visitors who live in the City of Chicago and those who live in the Metro area and beyond. Essentially, visitors who journey into the Loop from the Metro area for the arts are nearly identical in age from visitors who come from longer distances in the United States or beyond. But Arts in the Loop attendees who live in the city and those who live in the Loop itself are decidedly younger. The profile of Arts in the Loop visitors is fascinating and in many ways counter-intuitive.

Continued Evolution

The Arts in the Loop continue to evolve and expand. New museums like the American Writers Museum, new public art like Arts on the Mart projections and festivals like Chicago Blues Festival, which moved to Millennium Park in 2017, welcome an increasingly diverse audience. This new audience, as well as Chicago residents who come to the Loop frequently for the arts, spoke with one voice in this study in calling the Loop one of the world’s greatest arts districts and in saying that it is the Arts in the Loop that best represent Chicago to the world.

Study Partners and Credit

This study was commissioned by:

Members of the Arts in the Loop Task Force

Sandra Aponte, The Chicago Community Trust Greg Cameron, Joffrey Ballet Jean de St. Aubin, Gene Siskel Film Center Nora Gainer, Art Institute of Chicago Judie Green, Auditorium Theatre Philip Koester, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Lisa Middleton, Lyric Opera of Chicago Lynn Osmond, Chicago Architecture Foundation Lou Raizin, Broadway In Chicago Claire Rice, Arts Alliance Illinois Roche Schulfer, Goodman Theatre Melanie Wang, City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

Research and Reported by

The research team for this study was comprised of ArtsMarket, Inc., and HR&A Advisors, Inc. The report was written by Louise K. Stevens, ArtsMarket, Inc.

Cover Picture by Diego Delso on Wikipedia. Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Arts in the Loop Economic Impact Study


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