A Message to City Officials: Beauty & Economic Boost through Murals, or Blight & Financial Drain?

We all know what walking past a beautiful mural does for our emotional wellbeing, for our senses, for our mood. It uplifts, gives us a break from our daily stress, and evokes feelings of beauty, peace, and gratitude.

But have you ever thought about the tangible, economic impact murals may have for cities and communities in the long term? We sure have, so much so that we decided to dig in, put our researcher hats on (thanks to PhD Insights), talk to our local city officials (City of Santa Monica), and uncover the tangible benefits for cities, business owners and communities as a whole. What we found was inspiring & exponentially impactful.


Murals Enhance Community
Murals Benefit Local Businesses
Murals Boost Tourism
Murals Reduce Costs


1) Murals Enhance Community

Studies have found that “at the most basic level, the arts provide opportunities for people to come together through their attendance at arts events and classes, arts festivals, and arts fairs. Regular involvement in these arts activities can produce social solidarity and social cohesion through the creation of community symbols (e.g., neighborhood murals) and community identity.” (McCarthy, Ondaatje, Zakaras, & Brooks, 2004). What’s more, arts can catalyze a community’s interest and energy towards change (Rogers & Spokes, 2003). The arts help mobilize communities of support (Fiske, 1999).


“Thank you for turning the boring into the beautiful, and
for building a strong community movement along the way.

– Ted Winterer, Mayor of Santa Monica


2) Murals Benefit Local Businesses

Murals increase magnetism to a location, boost business and social media tagging for business locations, decrease costs of repainting and vandalism, and has even caused up to 50% bumps in some annual business revenues. One business in particular, (see case study here), with an annual revenue of $100,000, spent $1,000 on a mural, and increased their annual revenue the following year to $120,000–a hefty 1,900% return on investment (ROI). While this mural investment may be on the lower end of mural costs, even a mural costing 10 times that would likely still yield a hefty return. That’s a lot of numbers for a little bit of paint!

A Beautify Earth mural at Metropolitan Cleaners in Santa Monica increased business revenue by up to 50%, and drove a dramatic increase in foot traffic according to owner Benny Escobar. In addition, many other businesses reported daily increase in spending and around 20% increase in pedestrian traffic.

For more information about our work and for details on our “Beautify Santa Monica” initiative, check out the in-depth case study here.


“Beautify Earth’s work has increased my business
revenue up by 50% and driven traffic with people who
would never have noticed us otherwise.”

– Benny Escobar, Owner of Metropolitan Cleaners


3) Murals Boost Tourism

Tourists who visit a community to see its works of art may also shop, eat, and stay at a hotel in the community. High concentrations of artists and/or high-skilled workers may create a feedback loop, where businesses are drawn to an area because of the availability of creative talent and/or high-skilled workers, and that talent is consequently drawn to that area because of those businesses. By improving a community’s image, people may feel more confident about investing in that community. So for example, people might be more likely to buy property in an area that they feel is “up-and-coming” because of the presence of the arts. Further, the density of arts organizations may play a role in attracting residents and businesses to (re)locate to a community by improving its image and making it more appealing. This is especially true for attracting highly skilled, high-wage residents, who will have a large economic impact (Guetzkow 2002).


“Beautify Earth is such a wonderful representation of the creative spirit
and innovative thinking that is alive and well in Santa Monica.

– Misti Kerns, CEO, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism


4) Murals Reduce Costs

What’s more, we discovered that murals actually help decrease costs associated with graffiti abatement. High-quality murals are generally respected by taggers, who will often not deface art with cultural value. The lifespan of a mural can be decades, amortizing their initial costs over time.

While estimates of how much money is spent on graffiti removal range widely (likely to do different definitions) and should be interpreted with caution, in 2007 alone, Los Angeles’ CalTrans spent 2.7 million on graffiti removal, while the city of LA spent an additional $7 million, and LA county spent an estimated $30 million.

In an experimental study with a control condition, there was a 42.9% reduction in tagging the mural, versus a plain re-painted wall. (Craw et al., 2006). 

🙌🏾 Much gratitude to PHD Insights for the research that provided all these powerful insights!  

“Beautify Earth has transformed many of our local Santa Monica/Venice neighborhoods and businesses through community-based public art.

Senator Ben Allen

“Beautify Earth has beautified Santa Monica’s bleakest walls with startling creativity that delights the eye, warms the heart, & captures the imagination.

Rick Cole, City Manager of Santa Monica

While these examples relate to California and Santa Monica in particular, our focus is to support and empower a global movement of beautification, in order to strengthen communities worldwide. We’ve seen people come together and doing the hard work to be a part of this larger vision.

A great example of this is the inspiring story of entrepreneur and Beautify Earth Global Ambassador Akshat Dhawan. Akshat and his team have brought the Beautify Earth movement to Champa Gali, India, by creating 40 murals, designing 15 cafes, and turning many concrete corners into livable art. Read the amazing story behind their efforts as featured in TheQuint’s “Making Liveable Art in Unkempt Spaces of Delhi’s Champa Gali” article, and stay tuned for a Beautify Earth exclusive interview with Akshat, coming soon.


Beautifying + Community + City Support = Impact!


Help Us Transform Your Community with Vibrant Color 
We can inspire citizens to engage, empower forward-thinking civic leaders, and activate thriving communities through art-while multiplying return on investment (ROI), increasing revenue, and boosting pedestrian traffic to local businesses.



Many thanks to:

PhD Insights – User Research Agency
It seems like customers never know what they really want. Understand the emotions that underly what your customers say. Learn how PhD Insights can help your company with pricing, product strategy, and marketing positioning.


Related Articles:

“Making Liveable Art in Unkempt Spaces of Delhi’s Champa Gali”
Nestled in the south of India’s capital is a passageway called Champa Gali. It is an urban village created and decorated by a community of young artists. Champa Gali is lined with stunning murals and plants, as opposed to the cow shed and furniture shops that stood there a few years ago. Read More