Posted by Mr. Randy I. Cohen,
The arts advocacy season is upon us once again. It’s time to meet with your legislators to help them understand the value of investing in the arts. How to prepare? Start with this list of “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”
It can feel intimidating walking into a legislator’s office—even to experienced advocates. To always feel prepared, I break the advocacy process down into three simple questions:
- Who gets the message?
We all have local-state-federal legislators who make policy and funding decisions that affect us. Not sure who yours are or how to contact them? We’ve got everything you need in our Arts Action Center. Simply type your zip code and click! Give them a call and set your meeting. They will appreciate your visit.
- What is the message?
The effective arts advocate rides with a full quiver of case-making arrows, ready to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic. Prepare for your meeting by learning what issues your legislator cares most about. Our recent study demonstrates that different types of funders respond more favorably to different messages. Elected and business leaders respond well to economic impact, benefits to business, and arts and community development. Private funders and individual donors are drawn to arts education, quality of life, and “art for art’s sake.” You’ll find all of these in your 10 Reasons list; click the links below to learn even more about each reason!
- Who delivers the message?
I remember a Mayor telling a story about his Police Chief’s testimony at an arts budget hearing: “If you have to cut the arts budget, I’d rather you took that from my public safety budget,” he said. “When the arts do their job well, it makes my law enforcement job easier.” It’s very powerful when others deliver the message. Who are the education, healthcare, and business leaders you can recruit to join you as an arts champion? Prepare them too, using your 10 Reasons list.
Remember the Golden Rule: No numbers without a story, and no stories without a number. The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. Share yours. It’s engaging and draws your listener in—and then pair it with the research-based findings in “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten.
You can download the 10 Reasons as a handy 1-pager here.
10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2019
The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times.
- Arts improve individual well-being. 69 percent of the population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” 73 percent feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in,” and 81 percent say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”
- Arts unify communities. 72 percent of Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 73 percent agree that the arts “helps me understand other cultures better”—a perspective observed across all demographic and economic categories.
- Arts improve academic performance. Students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs, standardized test scores, and college-going rates as well as lower drop-out rates. These academic benefits are reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Yet, the Department of Education reports that access to arts education for students of color is significantly lower than for their white peers. 91 percent of Americans believe that arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education.
- Arts strengthen the economy. The production of all arts and cultural goods in the U.S.(e.g., nonprofit, commercial, education) added $764 billion to the economy in 2015, including a $21 billion international trade surplus—a larger share of the nation’s economy (4.2 percent) than transportation, tourism, and agriculture (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). The nonprofitarts industry alone generates $166.3 billion in economic activity annually—spending by organizations and their audiences—which supports 4.6 million jobs and generates $27.5 billion in government revenue.
- Arts drive tourism and revenue to local businesses. Attendees at nonprofit arts events spend $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters—valuable commerce for local businesses. 34 percent of attendees live outside the county in which the arts event takes place; they average $47.57 in event-related spending. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences.
- Arts spark creativity and innovation. Creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders, per the Conference Board’s Ready to Innovate report—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. Research on creativity shows that Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than other scientists.
- Arts drive the creative industries. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. A 2017 analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 673,656 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts—4.01 percent of all businesses and 2.04 percent of all employees. (Get a free local Creative Industry report for your community here.)
- Arts have social impact. University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates.
- Arts improve healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.
- Arts for the health and well-being of our military. The arts heal the mental, physical, and moral injuries of war for military servicemembers and Veterans, who rank the creative arts therapies in the top 4 (out of 40) interventions and treatments. Across the military continuum, the arts promote resilience during pre-deployment, deployment, and the reintegration of military servicemembers, Veterans, their families, and caregivers into communities.