by Colleen Cook
It’s easy to think of the arts and entertainment as something that happens when you’re not working. After all, the “weekend” as we know it was birthed out of the Industrial Revolution when suddenly workers had time off and expendable income to spend on entertainment. This spurred on expansion of Vaudeville circuits throughout the country, followed by cinemas, and later performing arts centers. So, it makes sense that we separate the way we think about “jobs” and the “arts,” but in reality the arts are an incredibly effective economic driver.
“While America is in a time of deep political division, there is little disagreement about the importance of supporting jobs and strengthening the economy. Research by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that the nonprofit and for-profit arts is a $730 billion industry that directly employs 4.8 million arts workers. This represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP—a larger share of the economy than transportation, tourism, and agriculture. Arts organizations are resilient and entrepreneurial businesses. They employ people locally, purchase goods and services from within their communities, and market and promote their regions. Arts businesses are rooted locally. These are jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.” – Americans for the Arts, Statement on Arts, Jobs, and the Economy
There’s been a lot of conversation about the importance of the arts, since President Trump announced his plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts from the federal budget. It’s easy for us to talk about the intrinsic, personal benefits of the arts – we could have that conversation all day long, every day. But, decisions about federal spending aren’t necessarily viewed through the lens of how meaningful the results of that funding are, they’re viewed through the economic return of that federal investment. When we have that conversation, it’s evident that federal arts funding has an remarkable impact on the economy:
“The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the largest national funder of nonprofit arts organizations in America. Every $1 of NEA funding leverages $9 in private and public dollars and fuels a dynamic cultural economy and generates millions of American jobs. A pennies per capita annual investment has helped to leverage a nonprofit arts industry of almost 100,000 organizations strong serving millions of citizens in every part of America. Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences today generate $135 billion of economic activity that supports 4.1 million arts and non-arts jobs throughout their communities.”- Americans for the Arts, Statement on Arts, Jobs, and the Economy
The NEA funds the arts in all 50 states, and Ohio is the second-highest recipient of that funding. The NEA’s entire budget is just 0.004% of the entire National Budget, with an incredibly high return on investment. We as a country can’t afford to lose that investment in our country’s arts and culture. Arts = jobs, period. If you would like to take action, here’s a simple way to do so.
Read the full Americans for the Arts, Statement on Arts, Jobs, and the Economy here, and check out their Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study as well.