10 Reasons to Support the Arts

Randy Cohen

Almost one year ago, I posted The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in response to a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts.

Being a busy guy, he didn’t want a lot to read: “Keep it to one page, please.”

With the arts advocacy season once again upon us … (who am I kidding, it’s always upon us!) Here is my updated list for 2012.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $166 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 5.7 million jobs and generating nearly $30 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $27.79 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($40.19 vs. $19.53)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

5. Arts are the cornerstone of tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown annually since 2003 (17 to 24 percent), while the share attending concerts and theater performances increased five of the past seven years (13 to 17 percent since 2003).

6. Arts are an export industry. U.S. exports of arts goods (everything from movies to paintings to jewelry) grew to $64 billion in 2010. With U.S. imports at just $23 billion, the arts achieved a $41 billion trade surplus in 2010.

7. Building the 21st century workforce. Reports by The Conference Board show creativity is among the top-five applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “…the arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.”

8. Healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

9. Stronger communities. University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.

10. Creative Industries. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and advertising companies. An analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 904,581 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.3 million people—representing 4.25 percent of all businesses and 2.15 percent of all employees, respectively.

11. What is your #11? Share with us in the comments below…

Keep up the great work!

Randy Cohen is vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, the nation’s advocacy organization for the arts.

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