The arts are a catalyst for economic development. And we must acknowledge the fact that our arts organizations are businesses, too.
That’s the message of Randy Cohen, VP of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, the nation’s advocacy organization for the arts, who spoke Wednesday afternoon to a crowded room of Columbus area arts leaders gathered at the Columbus Metropolitan Club.
On staff at the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) since 1991, Randy is one of the foremost experts in the field of arts funding, research, policy and using the arts to address community development issues. In January 2010, AFTA released The National Arts Index, the first ever annual measure of the health and vitality of arts in the U.S. AFTA published the two premier economic studies of the arts industry—Arts & Economic Prosperity, the national impact study of nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences and Creative Industries, an annual mapping study of the nation’s 680,000 arts establishments and their employees.
The good news here is Columbus already is building on a strong arts economy. Community members have known that’s the case anecdotally, but the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study shows nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Columbus pump millions of dollars into the local economy, including $226 million in economic activity and 8,500 jobs.
In addition to the economic impact, the arts engage communities; they offer people a vehicle for emotional and cultural expression and can challenge perceptions and encourage critical thinking.
A couple of years ago, Randy was asked by a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts. Here was Randy’s response: The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts, This is a solid top ten list (because Randy knows a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to the subject) – but what would you add to the list?
What can you do to help?
Spread the Word! If you see a wonderful show or exhibition, shout it from the rooftops! Or post it on Facebook to share your experiences and encourage others to attend. The arts industry needs us to get out there and actively support their programming in order for them to thrive.
Donate! If you can afford it, donate to your favorite arts organization or one that offers arts grants. Your financial support will help with stability and in turn will allow arts presenters to offer affordable programming for the entire community.
Volunteer! No money to spare? You can do a lot by offering your time. Check into any of your favorite arts and cultural organizations and you’re sure to find volunteer opportunities. For example, the Columbus Arts Festival (link to http://columbusartsfestival.org/get-involved/volunteer/), one of Columbus’ most beloved summertime events, has opportunities all year-round – from student internships and volunteer committees that organize nearly every aspect of the event to onsite volunteers. Organizations like the Columbus Arts Festival wouldn’t happen without the support of community volunteers.
Be an Advocate! Arts advocacy involves sharing your views and opinions with the elected officials who make decisions impacting your arts community or organization. Stay informed and educated – make your voice heard! Go to gcac.org to learn more.