Everyone is talking about the economy these days. Let’s face it, most of us are being impacted, personally, by these difficult times. So when someone asks us to support the arts, the request is often overshadowed by, what some call, the larger issues of consumer spending, unemployment, merchant profits and government revenue. The arts, which contribute to our society in immeasurable ways, are often at risk in our schools and neglected in community budgets during times of economic challenge. We appreciate the arts. We may even revere them. But we leave their support in the hands of “someone else.” Many of us have never stopped to think about how much the arts truly contribute to society. More than just an enjoyable pastime – studying, creating, even experiencing art benefits us in ways we often take for granted.
The arts, being universal languages, have the potential to span racial, cultural, gender, social and economic differences. In doing so, they encourage us to appreciate those differences while embracing the commonality of the human experience. The arts remind us to reflect and consider, behaviors that have become all too rare in our harried, sometimes disconnected lives. All of this generates awareness, and positively influences the way we interact with our world.
And what about the arts in education? In this technological world where we have instant access to amassed information via multiple devices, the arts promote an advisable balance. Students are encouraged to consider, discover and experiment before presenting inner perceptions to the outside world. The arts, then, become journeys of exploration that lead to self-expression, realization, and the knowledge that achieving a result is a “process.” Students learn to investigate, analyze, incorporate, trouble-shoot and problem-solve, all practical skills in the larger world. Many of those same students pursue careers in creative businesses.
Some of you will read this and argue that the above benefits are idealistic or trivial when compared to more significant economic issues. Just for you, then, I’ll get down to the brass tax, the dollars and cents. The bottom line is the arts contribute to the economy… significantly. In Good For The Soul… Good For The Economy, a recent blog written by ArtsWestchester’s CEO, Janet Langsam, it’s reported that “Nationally, nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating $22.3 billion in government revenue.” The arts, therefore, are a significant contributor to our economic success. But, please, don’t take my word for it. I encourage you to read the report, “The Arts And Economic Prosperity in Westchester County, NY” for yourself. In it, you’ll find statistics regarding the impact of arts on the economy, right here in Westchester, NY.
There are countless ways to support the arts. Monetary donations are, of course, always welcome. But what if this economy is getting in your way? Consider donating your time or professional services to your local theater group or art guild. Theater companies can always use make-up artists and supplies, hair dressers, program and advertisement printing, set painters and building supplies, and so much more. By providing your time or business expertise you save arts organizations money, which can be allocated elsewhere. Most arts organizations are so appreciative that they reciprocate, acknowledging donors in show programs, gallery invitations, etc. The result is a symbiotic relationship. Patronage, of course, is one of the best ways to ensure the survival of the arts. When you are making plans for an evening out, why not consider attending an arts event? And, lastly, communicate with your school superintendents, community representatives and legislators that the arts are important to our society… and our economy.