Why the Arts Matter

What impact do the arts have on our communities? Why is it so important to foster artistic creation, diversity, and recognition?

As President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, Robert L. Lynch, stated in 2019,

“Whether it is health, education, economy, or faith, the arts improve our communities and our lives, and they lend themselves to practical, solution-oriented philosophies to bind us socially and improve the world in which we live.”

But in a world driven by data, such statements often get lost. So, where’s the data?

Most of it comes from Americans for the Arts, whose Social Impact Explorer is crucial to understanding data related to the arts and their impact on our country.

In 2018, they found that there is near universal support for arts education in the United States, with 91% of respondents agreeing that the arts are part of a well-rounded education. Moreover, 73% of respondents agreed that the arts help them understand other cultures better and unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity.

Yet many respondents didn’t understand the link between how arts can help solve other issues such as job security, housing, and public safety.

Safe & Affordable Housing

Take housing as an example. Safe and affordable housing is an issue that effects every American, and has become a top issue during COVID-19. Housing situations have a ripple effect – impacting an individual’s health, access to education, and feelings of security and stability. The arts have a profound effect on empowering communities to provide better housing for their residents.

Americans for the Arts found that cultural history and artistic installations help communities foster unity and dialogue about housing preservation, that the use of arts to illustrate housing issues has inspired thousands to take action who would not otherwise, and that having a cultural or arts organization in a community increases property values by 20%.

In nearby Paducah, Kentucky, the Mainstreet Artist Relocation Program offers empty or uninhabited properties to artists for just one dollar. Through special financing arrangements, these artists have in turn contributed over $30,000,0000 to restoring the Paducah community. Wow!

Economic Development

Another issue is job security and workforce development – defined as providing training and support that produces well-equipped workers to secure a community’ economic strength. This is where the arts really step up.

According to Americans for the Arts, creativity – a skill fostered by arts engagement – is one of the Top 3 desired skills by employers across the nation. Over half of executives at top American companies credit the arts with significantly contributing to their career success, with 90% having taken arts classes in school.

All in all, in 2015, arts and cultural production represented over 4 percent of the U.S. economy, producing nearly 700 billion dollars and creating 4.7 million jobs. Now, 4 percent of the economy may not seem like much, but consider this: America spends 700 billion on national security each year. Cutting the arts could mean cutting our entire national budget for national security.

Data…or Art?

These are just some of the profound impacts that arts have in our community. Data reveals a lot – but I personally think that justifying why we need the arts comes from the arts and artists themselves. Data can only reveal so much – but the arts? They can reveal the true impact not just on our communities or individual selves, but on who we are, what we stand for, and where we’re going.

As we bring 2020 to a close, I hope you’ll keep these things in mind. Supporting the arts – as often showcased in museums, art galleries, and other cultural venues – is critical to helping us heal and move forward after this tumultuous year.

So today I leave you with a quote that sums up my view of how the arts impact us, courtesy Imelda Rebang in a 2018 piece for BOLD Business,

“In the film ‘Dead Poet’s Society,’ John Keating summons his students – and in a hushed voice, he shares a secret:

“We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Poetry, beauty, romance and love – this is what we stay alive for.”

Without a doubt, human beings have a deep-seated need to express an array of emotions – happiness, passion, grief, and hope.

Art is the color, the shape, and the tune that translate these emotions into form.”


Want to support the arts in South Central Kentucky? Please consider becoming a Friend of the Kentucky Museum or making a gift to support the upcoming US Bank Celebration of the Arts via the buttons below. Gifts of any amount help support the arts in our community. Thank you.

Published by kentuckymuseumwku

The Kentucky Museum is located in the Kentucky Building on the campus of Western Kentucky University. The Museum houses several changing exhibits. There are a variety of partnerships, services, opportunities, workshops, camps and other outreach provided to the public each year.

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