10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2020

by Mr. Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Information, Americans for the Arts

The effective arts advocate needs to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—deploying the right case-making tool in the right situation. Consider these “10 Reasons to Support the Arts” as your Swiss army knife for arts advocacy. 

Like so many sequestered at home during COVID-19, I write this while mindful of our challenging times, and yet inspired by how the arts still have found a way to permeate our lives. I have watched Yo-Yo Ma concerts online, visited the Smithsonian Museum with a click, and joined my neighbors for daily 6 p.m. outdoor singalongs. Even in this difficult environment, the arts are providing personal experiences and promote social cohesion (see tools #2 and #8 on your army knife!).

While I am uncertain what we will look like on the other side of this crisis, tool #1 makes me optimistic that when it is time to stop practicing social distancing, it is the arts that will unify us. We will join together again in public spaces for shared experiences as visitors at a festival, audience members at the theater, art makers on a community mural, and performers on the stage. And the public already understands this: Nearly three-quarters of the population believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and “help me understand other cultures.” Not only will that unity be good for our personal and community well-being, but it will help to rebuild our economy. Tools #4 and #5 show that the arts provide both cultural and economic benefits—supporting jobs, generating government revenue, and driving tourism. 

Artists and their advocates are on the right side of what needs to be done in this country. Thank you for your work!

You can download the “10 Reasons” as a handy 1-pager here. If you want to learn more about any of the points, each header is hyperlinked to a primary source for more information.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2020

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 also are a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times.

  1. Arts unify communities. 72% of Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 73% agree that the arts “helps me understand other cultures better”—a perspective observed across all demographic and economic categories. 
  2. Arts improve individual well-being. 81% of the population says the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world,” 69% of the population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” and 73% feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in.”
  3. 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% of Americans believe that arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education.
  4. Arts strengthen the economy. The production of all arts and cultural goods in the U.S. (e.g., nonprofit, commercial, education) added $877.8 billion to the economy in 2017, including a $29.7 billion international trade surplus—a larger share of the nation’s economy (4.5%) than transportation, tourism, and agriculture (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). The nonprofit arts 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.
  5. 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% 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.
  6. Arts spark creativity and innovation. Creativity is among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders, per the Conference Board’s Ready to Innovate report—with 72% 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.
  7. 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% of all businesses and 2.04% of all employees. (Get a free local Creative Industry report for your community here.) 
  8. 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.
  9. Arts improve healthcareNearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78% deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication. 
  10. 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 four (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.
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