A new survey shows that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations create a $149.9 million in direct economic activity in the area including Knox, Blount and Anderson counties.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study is the fifth survey funded by Americans for the Arts since 1994, but it's the first one to include the Knoxville area.

"It is such a powerhouse economic industry and generator," Arts & Culture Alliance Executive Director Liza Zenni said. "It's just another thing about the industry that a lot of people just don't think about."

Zenni says that the economic impact of the arts in the Knoxville area has doubled since 2000. The alliance paid to have Knoxville's data calculated in the study to illustrate the benefits of investing in nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and to compare Knoxville's performance to other comparable cities.

"You have facts and figures, but until you can give those facts and figures context, they don't mean anything," Zenni said.

The study found that arts and cultural organizations generated $18.6 million of combined state and local tax revenue. For perspective, that's the same impact on tax revenue as every University of Tennessee football home game during a season combined, according to a study conducted over the same time period.

The study showed that people in Knoxville spend more than on arts and culture than the national average.

Locals in the Knoxville area spent an average of $35.16 per person compared to the national average of $23.44, excluding ticket costs. Nonresidents spent an average of $95.99 per person versus an average of $47.57, excluding ticket costs.

The study did not count admission fees as individual spending, but rather only as revenue collected by organizations.

The study found that the economic impact of spending by arts and cultural organizations and their audiences supports 5,503 full-time jobs.

"The nonprofit arts, if they were a publicly traded business would be the sixth largest employer in greater Knoxville," Zenni said.

Zenni says despite Knoxville's strong performance, community leaders can do a better job of using the city's vibrant arts scene to attract even more businesses and tourism.

"I think the important next step is for our elected official to step up and realize when we invest more in art culture as a tourism attraction, our tourism goes up," Zenni said. "It is a very easy and positive investment to make."