The Arts Mean Business

May 13, 2019

When it comes to supporting the arts, it’s more than a plaque on the back of a theater seat, your name in a program or your company’s logo on a banner. The effort inspires good will, offers potential tax benefits, and creates space for creativity, inspiration, beauty, social commentary, and thought-provoking conversations.

Yet philanthropic individuals, funds and corporations may deprioritize arts funding in favor of more urgent – and certainly worthwhile causes – such as children’s health initiatives, poverty issues or humanitarian crises around the world. In fact, funding for arts and culture has dropped from well over 13% in the early 2000s to an estimated 8% of total U.S. foundation giving.

That may be because it can be hard to see the true impact of funding a theater program or sponsoring the Degas exhibit at the museum of fine arts. In reality, the arts themselves – fine art, pop art, live performances, sculpture, music, dance, street art, etc. – do so much more than beautify our communities, bring joy and inspire creativity. They make our cities and towns better places to live and work – helping to attract and retain talented employees. They offer an insight into our shared humanity and strengthen the social fabric that connects us.

Beyond that, you may see a very real economic impact, as cultural organizations create jobs, attract tourists and funnel money to local businesses.

Painting the Picture

The more than 100,000 arts and cultural institutions create more than “just” art. Here’s a look:

  • $729.6 billion: contributions to the U.S. economy
  • 4.2%: contributions to domestic GDP
  • 4.6 million: number of employees
  • $27.5 billion: generated revenue to local, state and federal governments
  • 69%: non-local patrons who visited a destination specifically for an arts event
  • $102.5 billion: amount that spending by arts audiences sends to local businesses

And just like with any charitable endeavor, there are several ways to get involved – big and small.

  1. Commission and buy jewelry and art from living artists.
  2. Attend cultural events, recitals, showcases and concerts; visit museums.
  3. Encourage schools’ art, music, dance and theater departments through attendance and donations of money, stock or equipment.
  4. Serve on the boards of arts committees.
  5. Donate to arts organizations. This can range from a sustaining membership to corporate sponsorship.
  6. Support community outreach with your time and talents.

Source: Americans for the Arts, “Arts & Economic Prosperity 5;” National Endowment for the Arts, “The Arts and Economic Growth,” April 2017; Grantmakers in the Arts, “Arts Funding at Twenty-Five: What Data and Analysis Continue to Tell Funders about the Field”

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