Americans for the Arts hosted Arts Advocacy Day in Washington DC on March 23-24. Thousands gathered to voice their support for the arts, to underscore the value of the arts in our culture and to advocate for funding.

Americans for the Arts educate on legal policy and encourage members of the United States Congress during budget discussions to support non-profit arts organizations at a sustainable level. The economic impact is significant. Arts organizations support over 4 million jobs and generate over 22 billion dollars in revenue in one fiscal year, according to their study “Arts & Economic Prosperity IV.”

I give thanks to organizations like Americans for the Arts, who help to raise awareness about the value the arts bring to our society.  At the same time, I shake my head wondering why we still have to make the case for the arts when the evidence is abundantly clear: the arts help to empower our citizens mentally, emotionally, spiritually and economically.  It makes communities more viable and livable. 

Where I live, which is an arts-rich community, our artists cannot make a living wage.  According to the most recent census, it’s clear that artists in our community make ends meet by cobbling together work, but cannot make a living wage in their chosen field.  Of the roughly 120 who actually claim to be an artist as their principal profession, their base wage is right around the poverty level for a single person, single household, or just under $17,000 per year.  If the arts contribute to the economic viability of the community – meaning, in part, that companies want to headquarter in a community with a wealth of amenities, including arts, sports, infrastructure, etc – then we are essentially building a viable community on the labor of artists who do not benefit from their contribution to the community.  

Of course, the impact of the arts goes beyond dollars and cents. Through creative expression, they integrate cultural acceptance, artistic appreciation, education and social engagement. The Arts make communities viable, amenable and whole.  We don’t have the arts without the artists who have dedicated their lives to it. 

The artists I know do not care to become rich in their profession.  But I am sure they would appreciate that the community was attentive to the value artists bring to a community and support their creative output with a decent wage. 

One of my passions is to advocate for the artists who make our community special and trumpet the value the arts bring to our community.  I do it on Arts Advocacy Day and every day.

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