The effective arts advocate needs to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic—and to deploy the right case-making tool in the right moment. Consider these “10 Reasons to Support the Arts” as your Swiss army knife for arts advocacy.
It can feel intimidating Zooming with, or walking into, a legislator’s office—even to experienced advocates. To always feel prepared, I break the advocacy process down into three questions:
Who gets the message?
We all have local-state-federal legislators who make policy and funding decisions that affect us. Not sure who yours are or how to contact them? We have everything you need in our Arts Action Center. Simply type your zip code and click! Give them a call and set your meeting. They really do appreciate your live (or virtual) visit.
What is the message?
The effective arts advocate rides with a full quiver of case-making arrows. Prepare for your meeting by learning what issues your legislator cares most about. Our recent study demonstrates that different types of funders respond more favorably to different messages. Elected and business leaders appreciate economic impact, benefits to business, and arts and community development. Private funders and individual donors are drawn to arts education, quality of life, and “art for art’s sake.” You will find all of these in your “10 Reasons” list. Click the links below to learn even more about each reason!
Who delivers the message?
I remember a Mayor telling a story about his Police Chief’s testimony at an arts budget hearing: “If you have to cut the arts budget, I’d rather you took that from my public safety budget,” the Chief said. “When the arts do their job well, it makes my law enforcement job easier.” It is very powerful when others deliver the arts message. Who are the leaders in education, healthcare, and business you can recruit to join you as an arts champion? Prepare them too, using your “10 Reasons” list.
When you are preparing your case for the arts, remember The Golden Rule: No numbers without a story, and no stories without a number. The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. Share yours. It is engaging and draws your listener in—and then pair it with the research-based findings in “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten!
You can download “10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2021” as a 1-pager here. I always keep a copy handy.
Artists and their advocates are on the right side of what needs to be done in this country. Thank you for your work!
10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2021
The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, empathy, and beauty. The arts also strengthen our communities socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even during a pandemic that has been devastating to the arts. The following ten reasons show why an investment in artists and arts organizations is vital to the nation’s post-pandemic healing and recovery.
- Arts unify communities. 72% of Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 73% agree that the arts “helps me understand other cultures better”—a perspective observed across all demographic and economic categories.
- Arts improve individual well-being. 81% of the population says the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world,” 69% of the population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” and 73% feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in.”
- Arts strengthen the economy. The nation’s arts and culture sector—nonprofit, commercial, education—is an $878 billion industry that supports 5.1 million jobs. That is 4.5% of the nation’s economy—a larger share of GDP than powerhouse sectors such as agriculture, transportation, and tourism. The arts have a $30 billion international trade surplus. The arts also accelerate economic recovery: a growth in arts employment has a positive and causal effect on overall employment.
- Arts drive tourism and revenue to local businesses. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $166.3 billion in economic activity annually—spending by organizations and their audiences—which supports 4.6 million jobs and generates $27.5 billion in government revenue. Arts attendees spend $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and lodging—vital income for local businesses. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences.
- Arts improve academic performance. Students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs, standardized test scores, and college-going rates as well as lower drop-out rates. These academic benefits are reaped by students across all socio-economic strata. Yet, the Department of Education reports that access to arts education for students of color is significantly lower than for their white peers. 91% of Americans believe that arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education.
- Arts spark creativity and innovation. Creativity is among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders—per the Conference Board’s Ready to Innovate report—with 72% saying creativity is of “high importance” when hiring. Research on creativity shows that Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged arts an arts maker than other scientists.
- 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.
- Arts improve healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78% deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.
- Arts for the health and well-being of our military. The arts heal the mental, physical, and moral injuries of war for military servicemembers and Veterans, who rank the creative arts therapies in the top four (out of 40) interventions and treatments. Across the military continuum, the arts promote resilience during pre-deployment, deployment, and the reintegration of military servicemembers, Veterans, their families, and caregivers into communities.
- Arts Strengthen Mental Health. The arts are an effective resource in reducing depression and anxiety and increasing life satisfaction. Just 30 minutes of active arts activities daily can combat the ill effects of isolation and loneliness associated with COVID-19.
Author Randy Cohen will dive deeper into his “10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2021” on Wednesday, March 24 in a free webinar on ArtsU. Register here to join the discussion live or to access a recording after the event.
Inspired to do more? Join hundreds of fellow arts advocates virtually at the National Arts Action Summit April 5-9, 2021. Click here to learn more.