Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels.

February 1, 2018; Richmond Times-Dispatch

While many of us identify the role of art as a means for social change or as a deliverer of cultural services, we don’t often think of the arts in terms of economic impact.

An effort, led nationally by Americans for the Arts and played out locally in every state in the US, is helping citizens and lawmakers to recognize that an appreciation for the arts can mean jobs for their communities.

Virginians for the Arts participated in the creation of economic impact reports in an effort to make the case for more state investment of the arts.

“Art can be entertaining and thought-provoking, but it also provides jobs and helps tourism, said Edward H. Harvey, president of Virginians for the Arts, a grass-roots organization that advocates for public funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts.”

In the Virginia example, Harvey goes on to explain a scenario many arts organizations have found themselves in, due to shrinking government support in many states and schools. He speaks in a language state legislators can understand: “Last year, Virginia was home to more than 17,000 arts-related businesses that employed more than 68,500 people.”

Many artists may be loath to put creative pursuits in terms of dollars and jobs, but it may pay off in the end. Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA), also a participant in the Americans for the Arts reports, has now seen arts funding from the state legislature triple in dollars since 2008. MCA has a robust advocacy network that generates citizen activism for the arts and points out the economic and other benefits of artists in communities, county by county.

Where all politics is local, the value of research and data about nonprofit arts organizations as an economic driver makes dollars…and sense.— Jeannie Fox