By Lisa Cremin, director at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
I believe that you should advocate for issues and ideas that you feel are important. This is an essential tenet of our democracy. I’ve learned that art has proven to be an effective and transformative way to reach deep into the minds and hearts of people and to stimulate action and advance change. Through much of my career, the fine arts themselves have been my personal and professional advocacy tool. Early in my career, I did this through museum exhibitions that revealed the intimate and gut-wrenching plight of the homeless, and later, the lonely and terrifying advent of AIDS, which marked the lives of so many people in the creative community over the past three decades.
Now, I’ve learned to use facts to advocate for the arts. Last week I was in Washington D.C., and with colleagues from Georgia and all over the country, I made personal visits to our elected officials. Clarity and brevity and facts were the tools. I was armed with powerful new data: arts and culture production contributed $697 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2012, equivalent to 4.5% of the nation’s economy. Arts is a major industry, more than transportation and warehousing (2.9% of GDP), travel and tourism (2.6%), or agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (2.15%). The arts and cultural sector supported 4.7M U.S. jobs in 2012 with a total compensation of $334.9B. Did you know that in 2012, total attendees at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art exceeded the total attendees of all the New York professional sports teams combined?
Fact after fact underscores that the arts and creative economies are good for our towns, cities, states and our nation. And for education. And aging communities. When governments reduce their support for the arts, they are not cutting frills. They are undercutting an industry that is a cornerstone of tourism, economic development and community revitalization.