This morning I received an email from Bruce Richardson (who, I am quickly learning, is an invaluable resource for any arts enthusiast in Wyoming) that contained an article citing an arts study done in Portland, Maine. The study was put out by Americans for the Arts and gave hard-number-evidence tying the arts to economics in Portland. The results are impressive. The nonprofit arts and culture industry there supports the equivalent of 1535 jobs and is a $49.1 dollar industry between organizational and audience spending.
This kind of information is buoyant for all of us trying to convince our legislators, elected officials, schools, donors and patrons of the essential role of the arts in the economy. And in a time of budget cuts and prioritization in funding allocations, our need to be persuasive on this point gets more and more crucial.
It can be kind of disheartening for the art purists among us, however. After all, shouldn't the argument for support of the arts be the inherent value of the arts? Self-efficacy, enlightenment and quality of life seem to be more intuitive as advocacy arguments than the whole "economic engine" approach, right?
Not necessarily. In fact, students of history will quickly conclude art and commerce have gone hand-in-hand since ancient times. Show me a city where the arts really flourish, and I'll show you a city thriving with trade and retail, booming in hospitality and tourism, teeming with innovation and entrepreneurialism.
In the Golden Age of Greece, Athens was the intellectual and cultural center of not only the country, but arguably the world.At the same time, it was the international hub of trade and commerce. During the Italian Renaissance, cities like Florence and Milan excelled in sculpture, painting, drawing, music and science. Inland cities and port towns also flowed with economic activity. The formula hasn't changed. Today, cities like Santa Fe, New Mexico, have turned creative tourism and cultural arts into their leading economic activity.
Tying the arts to robust, healthy economies shouldn't be an unpleasant task for which we grit our teeth and hold our noses in order to get the funding to fulfill our "true purpose". Rather, arts and commerce are a natural and proven partnership wherein they enhance each other and help assure mutual growth and prosperity.
For more information on how to successfully highlight that partnership, visit the Wyoming Arts Council site at www.wyoarts.state.wu.us (and click on the Community Development and the Arts link) and Americans for the Arts at www.artsusa.org (and click on information and services, economic impact) as great starting resources for facts and figures in making your case.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Here's to a creative week, and to building great partnerships for a long time to come.