The Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, Apr 20, 2011 31 comments

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

Editor's Note: For a revised list of 10 REASONS TO SUPPORT THE ARTS IN 2012, head over to Randy's latest ARTSblog post!

I was recently asked by a major biz leader for “10 reasons to support the arts.”

He needed the points to help him pull an 8-figure inve$tment for a new arts center...Make it compelling to government and business leaders, he asked.

Oh, yeah, he’s a busy guy—didn’t want a lot to read:  “Keep it to one page, please.”

So, apart from the 10-1 flip (and with apologies to David Letterman), this is what I delivered:

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

9. Stronger communities...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.  

8. Health and well-being...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.

7. 21st Century workforce . . . reports by The Conference Board show creativity is among the top applied skills sought by employers. 72 percent of business leaders say creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree.  Their report concludes, “…the arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the third millennium.”

6. Improved academic performance...longitudinal data of 25,000 students demonstrate that students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service. These benefits are reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Children motivated by the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also apply to other academic subject areas such as math and science.

5. Arts in the schools = better SAT scores...students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less. Better scores are found in all three portions of the test:  math, reading, and writing.

4. Creative Industries...the creative industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and advertising companies. An analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 756,007 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 2.99 million people—representing 4.14 percent of all businesses and 2.17 percent of all employees, respectively.  (Contact Americans for the Arts for your local and state numbers.)

3. Arts are the cornerstone of tourism...arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including arts and culture events during their stay has increased annually the last six years.

2. Arts are good for local merchants...the typical arts attendee spends $27.79 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, shopping, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($40.19 compared to $19.53)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

1. The arts are an Industry...arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers.  They spend money locally, generate government revenue, and are a cornerstone of tourism and economic development. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $166 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 5.7 million jobs and generating nearly $30 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

If he asked for 11 reasons . . . what would you have added?

*Arts Watch is the free weekly cultural policy publication of Americans for the Arts, covering news in a variety of categories. Subscribe to Arts Watch.

Note: Members of Americans for the Arts receive useful tips and information from Randy in our monthly newsletter, the Monthly Wire. For more information about our membership options visit our website.

31 responses for The Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts (from Arts Watch)


April 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm

The arts heal divides to facilitate social change!

  • Please login to post comments.
April 26, 2011 at 8:49 am

Hi Richard, for complete information, you can email me at [email protected], or reach out to Louisiana Partnership for Arts Advocacy (, our state partner, but here is some of the info you requested:

Longitudinal data of 25,000 students demonstrate that involvement in the arts is linked to higher academic performance, increased standardized test scores, more community service and lower dropout rates (see chart above). These cognitive and developmental benefits are reaped by students regardless of their socioeconomic status. Source: Dr. James S. Catterall, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA

Data from The College Board show that students who take four years of arts and music classes while in high school score 102 points better on their SATs than students who took only one-half year or less (scores of 1075 vs. 973, respectively).

Reflect the Critical Reading and Mathematics portions of the SAT only. The new Writing section of the test is excluded from this analysis for year-to-year comparison purposes. Students with four years of art and music classes averaged 528 on the Writing portion of the test—40 points higher than students with one-half year or less of arts/music classes (466). Source: The College Board, 2010. 2010 College-Bound Seniors: Total Group Profile Report.

  • Please login to post comments.
matt says
April 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Showing our children that they can dream of a day when they can contribute true awe inspiring beauty to the world.

  • Please login to post comments.
May 04, 2011 at 6:31 pm

We won't need nearly as many prisons, drug rehab centers, child abuse intervention. We will have a more productive workforce, more taxpayers, more diverse and tolerant communities. I know. I am working with inner-city youth who have been saved by arts education. Not to mention the suburban, upper middle-class kids who are just as lost...

  • Please login to post comments.
April 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I would add that the arts educate the inside of our children in a world where we seem to think that achievement only happens on the outside.

As our kids grow they need a sense of their unique voice to go with them through their life's changes. This is what truly belongs to them and it is what the arts are for.

When we take away the arts we tell young people we aren't interested in asking them who they are or how they think, just how they please the testing/degree/success gods.

  • Please login to post comments.
Chari says
April 29, 2011 at 12:32 am

Amen!!!! well said

  • Please login to post comments.
Kit says
November 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Brilliant response.

  • Please login to post comments.
April 22, 2011 at 11:01 am

Excellent list.
The one I would add as #11 - Arts for Democracy.
Without the critical thinking skills that are fostered and developed by the arts, we as a nation will lack the quality of citizens that is required to maintain a thriving democracy.

Jeremy Johannesen
NYS Alliance for Arts Education

  • Please login to post comments.
August 01, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Absolutely! Both art-making and arts participation nurture qualities that are essential to a thriving democracy: freedom of thought and expression; critical thinking; cross-cultural communication, empathy, and appreciation of otherness; a sense of community; and alternative perspectives on the past, present, and future.

  • Please login to post comments.
Melanie says
April 21, 2011 at 10:21 am

I would put #10 in the place of #1 - because the arts are essential to our lives as human beings and remind us of the beauty in the universe in this age of technology and trivia. Read the book, A Call to Arts: How Artistic Living Can Redeem Us -!

  • Please login to post comments.
September 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm

I agree, art is an integral part of our lives, take it out of our lives and nothing meaningful will be left.

  • Please login to post comments.
Suzann says
April 21, 2011 at 10:58 am

It is not just the end result of the arts that is an important positive and sometimes cathartic element to us socially, culturally, and within humanity, but the healing and spiritual aspects of creativity are equally as important. We all need to be creative in different aspects of our life - work or play - in order to develop new ideas, grow, and improve the space around us.

  • Please login to post comments.
April 23, 2011 at 10:29 am

11. The Arts build nations.
Literature, song, dance, crafts… are all art forms that unite a nation.

12. The absence of Art identifies oppressed countries.

  • Please login to post comments.
Joseph Futral says
April 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

So, what was really needed was abstract reasons to support the arts? Not reasons to support THIS arts project? And are the local business and government leaders really that uneducated not to know these things already. Or put another way, did this list really convert any nay sayers? Did this list directly address potential or known objections to this facility? Seems to me supporters of the arts know this list already. So the question should be, what will be the real objections to supporting this facility and will reason and a rational argument change their position?

nice cheerleading, but I hope you post follow ups to let us know how effective this effort was.


  • Please login to post comments.
April 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Great list! I plan to share this list far and wide. Thank you for making it available. It is our duty to support, cultivate, awaken, and promote arts for the welfare of our country, the world, and ourselves. Thank you!

  • Please login to post comments.
Joseph Futral says
April 27, 2011 at 7:45 am

With all due respect and understanding that we are all on the same side here, has anyone actually found someone who doesn't support the arts AND asked them why they don't support the arts? Seems a country that graduates more artists each year than existed in Florence in all the 15th century, and with many of the most popular TV shows on today being arts oriented, should have no problems finding support for the arts.

So what is the real problem?


  • Please login to post comments.
April 27, 2011 at 8:51 am

Joe, most of the elected officials that are actually disagreeing with you will say that they do appreciate what the arts do for the human spirit and even economy, but they either feel that public funds shouldn't support them (i.e. foundations, corporations, earned revenue should) or that in difficult financial times, they need to give money to public safety, etc. first or that the "core subjects" (of which arts education actually is part) need to be funded over art, music, phys ed, and foreign languages.

  • Please login to post comments.
Joseph Futral says
April 27, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Ok, well, let's examine this then:
1) they ... feel that public funds shouldn’t support them
2) foundations, corporations, earned revenue should [support them]
3) in difficult financial times, they need to give money to public safety, etc. first
4) that the “core subjects” (of which arts education actually is part) need to be funded over art

In anyone's experience, if these objections have been encountered, has anyone been able to reason with the person (with or without any of the arguments offered in the list) and change the person's mind?

My point and my belief is that we keep working out these logical arguments that do nothing to address the irrational under-pinnings of those objections. In my experience with people who objected to support for the arts, there is nothing in rational argument that will change their minds. Even the economics impact argument actually undermines itself. I contend that even if the arts had no economic impact, life without the arts would be empty.

I submit that the strongest argument for the arts is the art. Art that excites and inspires people will always find support. And that is your leverage for art that is incremental and processional that seeds the inspirational. A long rational list will always be countered by an anti-evangelist's own long rational list because ultimately, their objection is irrational at its core.

I have heard even the most ardent anti-arts-supporter say "If that was the kind of art they made, I would support that". And once you break THAT barrier, all other barriers will collapse.


  • Please login to post comments.
June 30, 2011 at 11:48 am

So, the bottom line for our school (which teaches through arts based curriculum) is how do we attract funding for our amazing teachers and students. This past year all faculty and staff worked on a volunteer basis so that we could even have a school. We can't do this again next year (2011-12 school year). Without grants, gifts or other sources of funding, we will not be able to offer our families an alternative to public education, (in which the arts have been cut).

The underlying issue, as I see it, is that education is still seen as a business, and not a necessary aspect for the development of well balanced, creative, socially competent adults.

So do you or anyone out there have either the winning lottery ticket or a way that we can bring funding to our school (we are a non-profit, private school serving children from Pre-k -8th grades. Most of our families are single parents and cannot afford the necessary tuition. Charter options are not available to us). Any info or suggestions would be welcomed.

Thank you for your time.
Moe Anderson
Faculty Chair,
Waldorf School of Bend
Moe Anderson

  • Please login to post comments.
May 02, 2011 at 3:44 pm

There is no question that the arts have external values as well as intrinsically human values. What disturbs me about this list are the two numbers, 5 & 6, that would lead one to believe that the arts "cause" these higher scores. The proof has not been shown yet despite several studies to the contrary. What should be stated is that these are correlations, meaning that there are strong possibilities that more motivated people in the arts are also good at other tasks as well. We do readers a disservice when we mislead them, when in reality, they become better educated to interpret data when it appears in various articles and forums. When we mislead them, somehow that wrong information comes back to bite us in some way. (For example, what happens when the arts do not perform as expected?)

  • Please login to post comments.
April 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Reason #11:
Arts and culture are a human and civil right that exist for the public benefit. Article 27 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights says “Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. . .” The arts animate democracy and create meaningful dialogue.

  • Please login to post comments.
May 04, 2011 at 1:59 pm

11. TO PROVIDE A CULTURAL COUNTERWEIGHT to the creeping vulgarity so increasingly and insidiously saturated throughout popular electronic media

12. TO CREATE LIVE SOCIO-CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES for a generatin of students whose creative lives are stultified by the weak ties engendered by "screen culture"

  • Please login to post comments.
Richard Bates says
April 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Compelling list. I would appreciate source material for all, #5 and #6 especially, to support advocacy in Louisiana.

  • Please login to post comments.
May 04, 2011 at 8:18 am

You can find source material for all of these on our website:


  • Please login to post comments.
May 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Art is so much more than pretty pictures that match your sofa. I have never viewed art as an 'elective' in all my years of school. This top-ten list is an excellent start for those of us trying to bring (back?) art into our communities.
Thank you

Bison Art Supply
Vallejo, CA

  • Please login to post comments.
May 23, 2011 at 2:11 am

I would add that the arts give us a sense of place and identity; something which helps us to connect with the communities in which we live.

  • Please login to post comments.
May 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

Great list but I would concur with those who would add something about arts and democracy and combine those apertaining to education/academic progress. The gentleman who doesn't understand why the arts seems to have such difficulty in getting funders amuses me. I have encountered many people who would never ever give to the arts, believing it to be something one does in one's free time - so that even artists should be doing it in their free time! This view panders to a reductionist and elitist view of art. Being an artist is a job of work, a vocation, a calling akin to that of teaching, nursing, the church. We would never expect teachers to teach in their spare time or nurses tend the sick and dying after they finished a shift on the factory floor or the office. Artists, like teachers, nurses and priests are generally poorly paid for their work BUT they don't get holiday pay, sickness pay, etc and there's no guarantee even of pay at all at the end of each week/month, etc. We should find a way to give artists a basic living wage so that they can create more freely without the worry of how to put bread on the table at the end of the day!

  • Please login to post comments.
May 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm

nicely stated, Julie.

  • Please login to post comments.
July 27, 2011 at 8:24 am

You can find a handy 1-pager about each of these 10 points (and more) at . . .

Keep up the great work!


  • Please login to post comments.
October 29, 2011 at 2:59 am

I am currently trying to get backers for my art project for black and white film photography. I came across this article, and thought maybe it would inspire those that read it. My project is That being said, there are many projects on that need funded. I recently graduated with a visual arts degree. I think that the primary reason for backing the arts is that it enriches culture and personality. More than anything though, it challenges our perception of the world.

  • Please login to post comments.
April 13, 2012 at 11:34 am

You can find source material for all of these on our website:



  • Please login to post comments.