10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, Apr 08, 2013 58 comments

Randy Cohen Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity.   The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance.  Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music.

3. Arts strengthen the economy.  The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector represents 3.25 percent of the nation’s GDP—a larger share of the economy than tourism and agriculture. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences) that supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue.

4. Arts are good for local merchantsAttendees at nonprofit arts events spend $24.60 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Attendees who live outside the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

5. Arts drive tourismArts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown steadily since 2003 (18 to 24 percent). The share attending concerts and theater performances has grown from 14 to 17 percent since 2003.

6. Arts are an export industry.  U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) grew to $72 billion in 2011, while imports were just $25 billion—a $47 billion arts trade surplus.

7. Arts spark creativity and innovation.  The Conference Board reports that creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “The arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.” Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than average scientists.

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. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.

9. 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.

10. Arts mean business.  The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. A 2014 analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 750,453 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.1 million people—representing 4.2 percent of all businesses and 2.2 percent of all employees, respectively. (Download a free Creative Industry report for your local community.)

58 responses for 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013


Megan Kennedy says
April 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Number 5 makes a very good point. Wherever I travel, I'm always on the look out for local art and architecture.

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Sandee Van Oyen says
April 09, 2013 at 1:29 am

The Arts engage, encourage us to "think outside the box", fill our hearts with an overwelming sense of what it is to be human! When an older student is asked what he or she enjoyed most about school, I bet most of them will recount an experience that included Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and CREATIVITY!

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May 04, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Here is a great report connecting the importance of arts, creativity, and innovation--by the Conference Board. Business scholars writing for business leaders: http://www.artsusa.org/pdf/information_services/research/policy_roundtab...

Thanks for the great comment, Marsha.

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May 04, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Our Animating Democracy website is loaded with this kind of information--research, programs, case studies, funding opp's. Take a look if you are not already familiar. Thanks for the great Comment, Linda!

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Pete Bansen says
April 08, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Art is the expression and elevation of the human soul.

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April 09, 2013 at 2:40 pm

We all have an innate urge to share and connect. Some say it’s the work of spirits, ancestors, God, the holy ghost, the shaman in you, what have you. Art is the ‘universe sparking within us’; the big bang existing within us. As particles of 1, of which we originally come from (think back further than your birth, further than your parents, ancestors, cave people, dinosaurs, bacteria, etc. yes, we were all part of 1 at one time. Not one race, not one culture. Literally, 1 thing. Can you fathom that?), we’re all naturally trying to connect and communicate and reach that one-ness again.

We do it through art.

Art allows us to share and connect philosophies and experiences.

Sharing is a form of love.

Love is a good thing.

The essence of life. How we came to be, and how we will progress, flourish and move forward.

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April 08, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Arts Education and The Arts support economic growth. "The development and sale of the products that grow our economy are at some point connected to an entire team of artists who were all once creative little CHILDREN!"

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Page Flynn says
April 08, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Art and music is a stress, depression and anxiety reliever. Having Art in schools and a community helps kids and people of all ages find friends and get rid of the pain of being made fun of, bullied and ridiculed by the harsh world. Art is a great escape.

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Kevin in Nova Scotia says
April 08, 2013 at 8:21 pm

11. Please Touch...picking up a Bottle of Wine or a Craft etc. makes the connection more personal with the artist/studio and utimately the traveller more likely to make 'it' his. Encourage touching .....

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Molly Michels says
April 08, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Art is the best way to communicate with everyone, especially ones self.

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Drew James says
April 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm

These statements might be true but there is a world of difference between funding nonprofit arts organizations and receiving these benefits. The mentality seems to be, "fund us, then magic happens, and you get all of these things." Not so. If arts in education are so effective, why all the focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math?

The arts should be a cornerstone of tourism but rarely are they at the tourism table except to ask for grants. Where is the collaboration that leads to outcomes that matter to others? If the arts are going to survive, thrive, the sector had better stop applauding itself and get serious about becoming relevant to real community needs.These ten items are not reasons to fund the arts, they are justifications for arts funding. There is a difference.

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May 05, 2013 at 6:06 am

Hi, I was wondering if you could explain to me what you meant by 'becoming relevant to real community needs'.
Could you paint me a picture about that? Real examples. I feel like I want to agree that there are reasons to fund the arts, and justifications for funding, as you mentioned. I'd really like it if you could explain it,from your perspective and experience.
I am working on a funding solution for an artist friend, and I would love to know what your thinking is. Cheers Rosa

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May 06, 2013 at 1:15 am

Rosa, I'll take a shot at your question & Drew may have a diff take or response. Relevant needs to me are those that integrate (the Arts in) the establishment of a solution to a need or problem, like a bike path (created for all the right safety and recreational needs) that just doesn't get used UNTIL the Arts make this path a gateway to learning or fun along the way w "you name it" kinds of info stops, relevant (historic or ??) artworks, inter-active displays or games, etc. The medical field is an easy one to see relevance and results in when you consider music as dance motivating & arts projects for the learning disabled, etc.

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May 06, 2013 at 1:03 am

Drew, I like your thinking & ananlysis to a point and need you to help me w the diff between "justification" and "reason" which you made the heart of your comment. As hard as I try I end up w their equivalence in most cases. I'm an artist and find myself spending far more time in the organizational aspects of the Arts, trying to keep the Arts rep'd at the tables of various collaborations and sustainability movements. Funding is always an issue and getting other sectors to acknowlege how the Arts function w/i each sector (from environmental/green to tourism to health, etc) is often difficult when, as you say, people don't see projects of tangible (useful to the community) relevance coming from the Arts.

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April 08, 2013 at 9:02 pm

The Arts transcend cultures and help to build peace and understanding across nationalities and religions.

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Vicky says
April 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Today on CBC radio show Q, with Jian Ghomeshi, the former Canadian foreign minister Mr. Lloyd Axworthy made a case for the support of the arts in explaining that the arts and culture are a form of soft diplomacy that can create and strengthen foreign diplomatic ties. He also argued strongly for the importance of the arts in education.

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Rodney Grist says
April 09, 2013 at 4:56 am

Even more, Andrea; the Arts male us FEEL.

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November 02, 2013 at 5:59 am

nice and well done.
useful info.

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Laura says
September 13, 2013 at 3:35 pm

How can I find the University of Pennsylvania study referenced in #9?

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September 23, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Laura, Try this link to the UPenn Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP): http://www.sp2.upenn.edu/siap/docs/cultural_and_community_revitalization...

You will find phenomenal work there.

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May 10, 2013 at 10:37 am

You can find handy 1-pagers about these “10 Reasons” on our website: http://artsusa.org/get_involved/advocacy/advocacy_004.asp

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Emily Plaisted says
April 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

The arts are a way that we can express ourselves when we've run out of words. Sometimes it's easier to sing a song or draw a picture of an experience then it is to talk it out or even write it out. I think Number One is in the proper place as that is the most important reason.

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Sarah Pennington says
April 15, 2013 at 11:34 am

As a musician myself, I find it appalling that we need to defend the arts. Being on stage feels like nothing else. The experience it gives is truly like no other. Music and arts are so important and so much fun!

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Andrea Percy says
April 08, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Art makes us feel good.

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Anna Dynkova says
April 27, 2013 at 3:29 am

Art is a way to change the world for the better. Art reflects societal issues and provide alternative solutions.

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April 08, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Without the ART the Earth is just EH.

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April 27, 2013 at 9:18 am

Great artist's image of that here: http://www.cover.dk/blog/earth

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Jean says
April 10, 2013 at 6:33 am


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Jessica says
April 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm

As a musician, this topic is very close to my heart. I watch as surrounding counties cut back or completely eliminate the arts in our schools. They are firing assistant band directors and cutting 5th grade band. Bullying is a major problem in our schools as well. Students that are a part of an arts program instantly have friends that they can relate to. Because I had band in 5th grade, I entered middle school with friends that not only encouraged my talent, but shared it with me. We need arts to express our creative side just as a lawyer or doctor wants to express their passions. I know from personal experience that fine art programs help raise your GPA. I had a better understanding of math and had friends to help if I ever needed it. Artists must have an outlet for their creativity. Even if someone does not have a talent in the fine arts, they can and do still appreciate fine music, art, and drama.

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April 08, 2013 at 3:40 pm

The Arts strengthen analytical thinking and prepare its practitioners to be flexible and adaptable in a non-static, changing social and economic environment.

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Whitney Price says
April 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm

I agree with all of these reasons. It creates jobs, brings in tourists to support local businesses, helps people to get jobs (especially in a teaching field), and definitely creates a tighter community. As a child from a family with limited funds, I was thankful that the arts did not cost so much, it was the only thing through my school days that I was an active participant in from 5th grade until 12th and this really created a big family for me because it was a huge group of friends and people that supported me. However when he was talking about the true prosperity reason I could see the other side. I was also involved in sports when I was in middle and high school, but they did not last as long in my life. Children are all different and in the athletic field these types of relationships can occur as well but it is much more difficult. It costs more money, sometimes it requires a skill that some children do not possess, and it does not offer as many opportunities after college as a background in the arts does.

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Sean Gallagher says
April 08, 2013 at 2:38 pm

The arts is univursal language

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Ricardo Knox says
April 15, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Wow. I was really inspired by the brilliance of this business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding. The reason I admire this charge is because he actually took the advice of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, and kept it all a single page. I agree that packing ten reasons into a single page is genius because it would be much more appealing to readers, and therefore becoming much more effective. This short article was surprisingly informative. With more schools focusing on core curriculum art sometimes is under minded. As a future educator and current student teacher at Carrollton Elementary of Carrollton, Ga, I too had a reason to add to this charge. Art is important especially in elementary school because it provide these particular students with opportunities to express their creativity and explore their imagination. Creativity and imagination allow students to express our uniqueness in a way that allows us to connect with those around us. It enables children to develop problem-solving skills that will help them throughout their lifetime. Creativity also encourages children to discover who they are to help unleash hidden dreams and talents and to embrace their individuality. Art is highly necessary and important in the learning processes.

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Hope Rotondi says
April 15, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Looking at reasons to support the arts through a teachers perspective; my #11 would be, it keeps children out of trouble. It gives them the opportunity to explore their selves and what they are capable of.

To see art classes slowly being taken out of schools is a terrible thing to witness. As a future educator, all these reasons seem credible and it makes me wonder why counties are taking art away from our children. They are the future, and their art is what could be helping not only themselves but our economy.

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May 06, 2013 at 2:08 pm

We have a lot of information about arts programs for youth as well as research that connects that work to more pro-social behavior by the kids. Great place to start is the YouthARTS Toolkit--FREE on our website. http://www.americansforthearts.org/youtharts/

That is a great #11, Hope. Thanks!

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Nickolas Summerville says
April 14, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I think that the first reason is by far the most powerful. Music is an international language that bypasses all other modes of communication. Where words fail, music speaks, as the old saying goes. As a musician, I know how being up on that stage feels. No other emotions are present but the one that are created from the blemishes on the paper. Nothing else in this world matters but the harmonies and lines that are presently going on. If the world could just open their eyes and become more involved, there would be less problems in the world.

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April 08, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Thanks Anne & Peter...keep 'em coming!

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Ms. Anne L'Ecuyer says
April 08, 2013 at 12:17 pm

The arts provide a vital third space in which to fail productively and problem-solve inside complex systems. They are the equal partner to science and research in solving our most vexing societal problems.

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Michele says
April 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm

It's depressing to think we must defend the reasons to support the arts for so many purposes other than they are just a joy.

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April 25, 2013 at 8:22 am

arts is one of the way people may express their feelings and ideas. As the years go by, we can see how it becomes more demanding.

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April 08, 2013 at 10:00 am

#11 - The Arts can help us see the world, and ourselves, in a different light and can communicate ideas about complex issues from new perspectives. They can make us think about things differently and foster innovation in the process.

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April 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Reason #1 as stated above should be enough. Funding art education in grades K through 12 should be the primary focus, the rest will follow -including wise expenditures of existing funds. It's unreasonable to expect much in the way of support from an arts illiterate society.

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May 01, 2013 at 10:07 am

Art is very important for our world, everyone have it's own art and lifestyle Turnkey Home

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John says
April 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Arts are the true, deep and personal communication of the soul with the rest of the universe

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April 10, 2013 at 8:51 am

Thanks for adding to the list. Keep them coming!

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Jamel says
April 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

The reasons provided are all good reasons, but I believe that there are so many reasons why the arts are important. It is a way of expression and allows the students to be open. The arts allow students to express themselves verbally as well as non-verbally which other subject areas can't do.

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April 10, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Arts participation and increased civic participation are positively correlated. (in soundbite speak: The arts make for more active citizens)

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April 09, 2013 at 11:29 pm

We are all witnesses by what we say (all the previous great responses) that ART (aka creativity, communication, sharing, expressing, ad infinitum positive aspects of our humanity and caring) is a passionate response to the need for self-expression and validation in its best and most basic sense: love. When that is suppressed, look out... to put it bluntly. We know the blessings it manifests; we don't want to experience the opposite.

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April 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm

If you want to find more information about these "10 Reasons," you can find a handy 1-pager about most on our website: http://artsusa.org/get_involved/advocacy/advocacy_004.asp

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Caresse Jones says
April 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I do agree that art is an absolutely important subject that should definitely be required in schools of all grades, elementary, middle, and high school. Research has shown that what students learn in the arts may help them to master other subjects, such as reading, math or social studies. One convenient way to sum up how study of the arts benefits student achievement is the recognition that learning in the arts is academic, basic and comprehensive. Studying the arts relates to academics and can help students master other subjects. When students are more visual learners, art can help them with math, for example. I think that out of all of the reasons why art is so important in school, this should be the top reason. Art plays so many important roles in a student’s life and academics and most schools drop art first because they believe that it is an unimportant subject. School is not all about lectures, math, and reading, but appreciating art is equally important and essential.

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