Last week, lawmakers of the Senate and House passed the final version of the economic stimulus package. There are a lot of valid reasons why some treat the bill with skepticism, but there is one component of the stimulus bill in which I personally rejoice in as an artist. The provision that survived intense scrutiny was $50 million in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts(NEA).
It was rather unbelievable to me as I heard some lawmakers rail against the funding of the NEA depicting it as wasteful and non-stimulative pork. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, aside from the civic and cultural benefits of the arts in general and that kind of intangible benefit to society, there are many reasons to regard funding of the arts as distinctly beneficial on economic grounds alone.
The NEA articulated in a press release entitled “Information Regarding the Arts and Economic Stimulus” numerous reasons art positively benefits the economy. Among these are the following:
1. Artists are small business owners and nearly one in three are self-employed.
The conclusion must be that supporting artists supports small business which there seems to be broad consensus on.
2. Research by Americans for the Arts shows that nonprofit arts organizations generate “$166.2 billion in economic activity every year, support 5.7 million jobs, and returns nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year.”
Not bad for a bunch of lazy bohemians eh?
3. Every $1 billion in spending for the arts supports almost 70,000 full time jobs.
Now math was never my strong suit, but that comes to about $14,000 per full time employee which strikes me as downright efficient way to put America back to work.
4. In fiscal year 2008, every $10,000 of grant money supported 162 artists.
While I have never been the distinct beneficiary of NEA funds, an artist can dream can’t he? Regardless, the efficiency here is again remarkable and it shows how a relatively small investment goes a long way in the arts.
5. The tightening economy has already caused many arts organization to cut back.
Out of this $800+ billion dollar behemoth $50 million to put artist to work is tiny. More jobs equals economic stimulation equals happy economy.
I think the list above is reason enough to be convinced that artist provide a tangible economic benefit and ought not be regarded as pork, but rather as an integral part of the stimulus plan. If you are still not convinced I recommend reading a study prepared for the National Governors Association called “Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development.” Who would have thought that artist help create jobs, generate tax revenue, positively impact tourism and consumer purchases, provide creative insight in industry, and often play a significant role in community redevelopment and thus the economic development therein?
Art to me is more than dollars and cents. I could do a whole post on the intangible benefits of arts to a society. In fact, given the distinctly economic tone here I think I must, but there is no denying artists and they’re creative endeavors represents a huge boon to a dynamic economy.
That being said, please support funding for the arts and when the spirit moves you, get off your ass and buy some art!