Friday, March 23, 2018

Art is more than culture, stories and memories. It's jobs and economic impact!

Self Portrait at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CAThe dictionary defines art as “The expression or application of creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting, drawing or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” I suspect that, at the least, poets, choreographers and musical composers, among many others, would consider that definition narrow and unnecessarily exclusive.
Contributing $763.6 billion annually to the nation's economy, the arts are more than just a critical part of the U.S. economy. The arts are important to the quality of most American's lives.
Pablo Picasso said, “We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”

Art is a medium which is highly communicative and can tell the stories of people across the globe like no other medium.

I think that Leo Tolstoy was getting close when he said, “To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling - this is the activity of art.”

Art is all those things and more. I once read an essay trying to define art and put its meaning in a neat, tight box. In the essay, almost thirty artists from painters, to writers, composers, poets, philosophers and photographers were quoted, each with another idea of what the essence of art was. None were wrong and in my opinion, all were incomplete. Art is hard to define through words, but for most people, when you see it, you know it's art.

Is art actually important and if so, why is it important?

These questions are constantly asked in the halls of government and school board offices across the U.S., as many who represent Americans continually try to defund all support for the arts and eliminate them from school curriculums. This is true despite the fact that America's citizens overwhelmingly support and happily participate in the arts.

According to a 2016 poll by highly respected Ipsos:

• 63 percent of the U.S. population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences.”

• 73 percent believe the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”

• 87 percent of Americans believe the arts are “important to quality of life.”

• 88 percent of Americans believe that it is important for students, at every grade level, to receive an education in the arts including dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts.

• More than 57 percent of Americans approve of their government funding grants to artists and arts organizations.

So why are the arts important? American's have spoken clearly what they think.

Americans understand that the arts help provide meaning and pleasure to our lives, lift people up and give us something positive in today's “troubled world.” I'm an American and I couldn't agree more.

If our governmental leaders aren't going to listen to Americans' voices telling them how important the arts are to them, then perhaps they will consider the booming economic reality of the arts and what they contribute to the nation's bottom line.

According to new data released on March 6 by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) we know the impact the arts have on the U.S. national economy.

The data reveal that:

• The arts contributed $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015 (the last year for which full data is available) which amounts to 4.2 percent of the U.S. GDP. That's more than the agriculture, transportation and warehousing industries contributed to the U.S. economy.

• The arts accounted for 4.9 million American workers who earned $372 billion.

• The arts accounted for a $20 billion trade surplus for the U.S.

• The non-profit performing arts community contributed $9 billion to the U.S. economy employing 90,000 workers who earned $5.6 billion.

As a photographer, I delved into the data to understand how much photographers and the photography industry contributed to the U.S. economy.

Beyond professional photographers and the industry capturing important personal memories for Americans, bringing the news into sharp focus with astounding images, documenting the American landscape and American lives, contributing to critical marketing tools for American corporations, etc.

• Photography and photo-finishing services contributed $10.2 billion to the U.S. economy.

Understanding how important the arts are for America and Americans, how they affect the daily lives of people and uplift them, and how much the arts contribute to the U.S. economy, there is no doubt in my mind that our national, state and local governments need to not only not defund arts' support, but increase it substantially.

Like parents across the U.S. already understand it, we need our schools and school boards to finally recognize the importance of arts' education and fund it on a par with reading, writing, sciences and mathematics.


Jim-Fargo said...

I had no idea the arts contributed to the economy so heavily. I thought it was in the millions, not more than $0.7 trillion and more than transportation and agriculture. The schools are crazy to drop the arts when you can make a real living at it. It's no waste like they claim when they drop it for more sports where so few can make a living. Think of all the high school football players in the US, and then think of how few NFL players they're are. It sounds like the arts are a far better bet.

Ned S. Levi said...

You're right Jim, but let's not forget how much the arts contribute to our daily lives. To me that's worth even more than a pot of gold.

Diane said...

I've bookmarked your article Ned, and the link to the new study about the economics of the arts. Our schools plan to drop music because they say it costs to much and has no benefit to the kids. There's a hearing soon and your article will be my ammunition and that for other parents.

Ned S. Levi said...

I wish you the best of luck Diane.

Evelyn-Salina said...

Ned I agree that the arts are essential, but the economics can help convince backward government officials their importance far more than polls and how important the arts really are.

Bob said...

Great ammunition to tell the school board where to take their cost cutting proposal that eliminates the arts so they can build a new high school football stadium so it's bigger than our rival.

Victor said...

Your article is very timely. The data you presented will help in a school board meeting next month.

Linda said...

As an artist and photographer in rural America, I've been telling my community the arts are valuable, but the stats you present are just what's needed to help us parents keep our arts center if threatened again.

Jake-Chicago said...

Great article Ned. I think its economic information will help many, but what made me feel good was that our country, at least its citizens are finally coming around to understand how important the arts are to our daily lives. So important that I would hope that as a nation we will make it a priority to improve opportunities in the arts instead of constantly making it the first thing governments try to cut.

Barb - Miami said...

Great article. I know a lot of school officials who should read it.

Belinda said...

We're having a school board meeting next week. The say the have no money and need to cut out our music and graphic arts programs in all our schools. Of course they're increasing the football budget. I've sent an email to each board member with a link to your article. They think the arts are virtually worthless.

Post a Comment