Although this column often focuses on the aesthetic benefits of arts performances and experiences, the arts industry is vital to the economy of communities, regions, and the nation. Nationally, the arts and culture sector represents 5 million jobs, with arts workers contributing about 3 percent of the State of Ohio’s gross domestic product, more than agriculture and education, and just under the amount provided by the construction industry. So put aside any consideration that the arts are only frills, tangential to the necessities of life, anything less than a vital component of the nation’s economy, education, health, and general well-being.
Consumer spending provides 70 percent of our national economy; arts organizations help drive local economies by generating diverse spending. Arts event attendees spend $31.47 over admission prices per event, with people paying for meals, childcare, clothing, transportation, and lodging in conjunction with the arts attraction — thus demonstrating that the arts industry is not only productive, but also a strong supporter of jobs outside the creative sector.
This truth is especially relevant at the present moment as Ohio is currently making decisions regarding the state’s budget allocations; one of those entities requesting adequate funding is the Ohio Arts Council, the organization dedicated to supporting the arts to strengthen communities culturally, educationally, and economically. In her testimony before legislators, OAC Executive Director Donna Collins emphasized the economic benefits contributed by the arts sector including $41 billion accruing to the state’s overall economy and $4.6 billion in annual tax revenues at the local, state, and federal levels. The arts generate commerce, create jobs, and drive tourism.
The arts are definitely big business, but this business has been severely impacted by the COVID crisis. Stages are empty, half of Ohio’s non-profit organizations remain closed one year after the pandemic began, and 95 percent of creative workers have lost partial or total income, a loss five times worse than all other non-profits. On the somewhat positive side, lack of access has moved citizens of all income levels to express their high regard for the arts; 90 percent of Americans agree that arts institutions are important to life, and 86 percent know that the arts are important to the overall economy and local businesses.
The arts positively impact people of all ages and ethnicities, communicating positive messages and improving quality of life across all barriers. Civilization has evolved and advanced through utilization of the power of imagination. Innovation and creativity are spurred and ultimately expressed through arts involvement; concurrently, these highly valued traits are among those sought by industry, employers, and businesses.
Even though it is looked upon by many as “fly over country,” our State of Ohio is known throughout the country as a vibrant arts center. When considering locations for start-up or expansion, corporations strongly consider arts opportunities as a positive attraction offering a higher quality of life for employees and executives, a fact proven through research which shows that access to the arts produces positive health benefits including fewer medical visits, reduced use of medications, improved recovery times, and stronger mental health.
Almost all Americans believe that the arts are integral to a well-rounded education. Arts involvement is known to improve academic performance in all socio-economic strata, and to improve grade point averages and reduce drop-out rates across lines of income and social standing. Research has shown that when school budgeting eliminates the arts as a cost-saving measure, students are harmed, with low-income communities absorbing the most damage.
The arts are powerful, bringing joy and hope to lives, inspiring wonder and awe. But the arts also demonstrate their power though their economic impact, creating jobs and earning dollars benefiting communities and nations. The important message currently being delivered to Ohio’s legislators by the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Citizens for the Arts, an organization that lobbies for arts funding, emphasizes that the arts are a productive industry, not a frivolous extra. Our elected officials have almost always demonstrated their concurrence in the wisdom of that fact with strong financial support, recognizing that the arts produce awesome monetary benefits in addition to providing comfort and inspiration to all who partake.