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Pennsylvania’s Creative Sector - From Impact to Opportunity

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts
Economic Resilience

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) is an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is governed by a Council of 15 private citizens and four members of the General Assembly, who set the mission and goals of the agency. The mission of the PCA is to strengthen the cultural, educational, and economic vitality of Pennsylvania's communities through the arts.

In late 2020, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts sought to understand the importance of the creative sector to communities and economic development around the state, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector in Pennsylvania, what can be done to support the sector’s short-term economic recovery efforts, and how the sector can be more broadly activated and integrated into planning work for long-term community and economic resilience as the world emerged from the pandemic.

Our Approach

It can be hard to define the creative sector, since organizations within the industry often use differing definitions that include or exclude certain segments of the economy. Therefore, to define and analyze this sector, Fourth Economy looked at data from a variety of sources to come up with a comprehensive definition that would be widely agreed upon, including the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) Arts and Culture Satellite Account, state- and county-level data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I), Census Nonemployer Statistics (NES) for counties in Pennsylvania, and the Exempt Organization Master File from the Internal Revenue Service, which includes data on the number, types, and finances of nonprofit organizations in Pennsylvania.

In addition to quantitative data, Fourth Economy held five, virtual town hall meetings around the state in the spring of 2021, to provide a venue for creative sector practitioners and organizations that support them to share their experiences of COVID-19 impacts, and brainstorm policies, investments, and interventions to help bolster the sector and its recovery. Across those meetings, about 200 creative sector professionals, arts workers, creative sector business owners, and arts & culture nonprofit leaders, as well as funders, policymakers, and creative business support organization representatives, were engaged in virtual brainstorming workshops.

The Results

This report has already begun stimulating conversations between the creative sector and economic developers around the state, about how the arts and creative workers can help contribute to community vibrancy, quality of place, and economic opportunities as we emerge from the pandemic. As communities around Pennsylvania begin looking to deploy rescue and recovery funding, economic development and planning agencies are engaging with arts and cultural organizations in their Main Street and comprehensive planning, to help implement strategies like zoning and code changes to encourage vibrancy to attract and retain people and talent.

Others are creating spaces for economic development and creative sector leaders to meet regularly for specific, accessible, and ongoing discussion that are integral to sustained change. Pennsylvania has made progress in building connections and relationships through inviting creative sector leaders to participate in the existing PREP and Engage regional coordination framework, but this work is just starting and must continue for long-term progress.



Project Type

Economic Development Strategy

Client Type




Final Deliverable Design Samples (Click to Enlarge)
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