Art and Economics

Art - good for the general economy by Jeannine Cook

Earlier this year, Georgians were fighting against the State Legislature cutting to zero any funding for the Georgia Council for the Arts. One of the arguments used to show a need to support the arts in Georgia was economic, citing the multiplier effect of monies invested in the different arts. Luckily, the Arts Council managed to survive by its fingernails, for this year at least.

It is therefore fascinating to read of what coastal towns in England are being inspired to do, as reported in of 5th July. They are using innovative approaches, through the arts, to regenerate the towns and bring in other economic activity. The example cited was Weston-super-Mare, in North Somerset. With a programme called Wonders of Weston, work by six international artists will be featured. Each of these will create a meeting place, a forum for discussion for Weston's inhabitants and visitors alike, an event to generate excitement and "buzz". What a good idea.

Ruth Claxton, Tim Etchells, Lara Favaretto, Tania Kovats, in association with landscape architects Grant Associates, raumlabor berlin and Wright & Sites are the artists selected. Lots of other people are also involved, all under the auspices of the Sea Change Programme, by which the North Somerset Council was awarded funds to help regenerate Weston-super-Mare. Even the public can vote on line as to which project meets with their approval.

Wonders of Weston, Weston-Super-Mare. (Image courtesy of artist at http://www.ruthclaxton.)

Wonders of Weston, Weston-Super-Mare. (Image courtesy of artist at http://www.ruthclaxton.)

Wonders of Weston, Holm, Weston-Super-Mare. (Image courtesy of Tania Kovats, artiss)

Wonders of Weston, Holm, Weston-Super-Mare. (Image courtesy of Tania Kovats, artiss)

This Sea Change programme is a national initiative by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) to "place culture at the heart of the renewal of England's coastal towns, contributing to sustainable, social and economic regeneration".

Such a programme is a clear vote, I would suggest, for the power of art to improve life for us all.

Prayers answered - for now - with Georgia Council for the Arts by Jeannine Cook

For this year, at least, the Georgia Council for the Arts exists, albeit in leaner form. The last day of the Georgia legislative session saw the passage of a 2011 budget which included funding for the arts. Hallelujah!

In fairness for having used this blog to inveigh about the dangers to the arts in Georgia, I will quote the open letter that the Head of Georgia Council for the Arts, Susan Weiner, has just sent out.

An Open Letter to Georgia’s Artists, Arts Organizations, and Arts Patrons

Congratulations! Your efforts kept Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) alive. Your exercise of political will is responsible for our state continuing to have a state arts agency. GCA was the recipient of thousands of emails and telephone calls from you and fellow Georgians. And, we received scores more from around this nation.

We know what Georgia would be like without the arts. We must remember to tell others, because the State of Georgia will face at least another year of fiscal constraints due to this recession. Yes, it is possible that GCA could be threatened again next year.

What would Georgia be like without the arts? Here are some of the answers we read in your emails.

Economic Impact
· GCA awards in FY 2009 of $3.9 M returned over $6.1 M to our counties and cities sales tax revenues. GCA grantees made money for Georgia.
· The Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP study showed a $376 M economic impact to the state, with only 98 GCA grantees participating

Community Development
· A nonprofit arts organization is the fifth-largest employer in Miller County; the home of the state’s beloved Swamp Gravy
· Renovation of downtown buildings for the non-profit Averitt Arts Center motivated the private investment of an additional $14 M to that city’s vitality
· Last Sunday, the Morris Museum offered free entrance to 1,000 visitors made possible because by its GCA award

Federal & Regional Dollars
· Some of Georgia’s taxpayers’ dollars going to Washington DC will return to be invested at home
· NEA State Partnership Grant and South Arts regional grants to artists and arts organizations will continue to provide support

Arts Education
· Davidson Arts Magnet School ranked 1st in the state in SAT scores 4 of last 5 years and demonstrates the value of arts education
· Over 30,000 students benefited from in-school and after-school arts education by the Alliance Theatre because of the GCA award; tens of thousands of students across the state enjoyed similar benefit
· Georgia was ranked second in the nation for student participation in the national Poetry Out Loud competition

Arts Industry
· Georgia is ranked third in US for arts employment, almost 90,000 artists
· There are almost 20,000 arts-related businesses Georgia based on Dunn & Bradstreet, Inc. research
· Georgia’s art industry is in the for-profit, not-for-profit, and self-employed sectors of our economy; our state’s artists work in all three sectors

Tourism & Film Industries
· Cultural Heritage Tourism is the fastest growing and most revenue-generating form of tourism
· Georgia has benefited from recognition through the Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, and Tony awards won by Georgia’s artists
· Without Georgia’s artists (ex., actors, graphic designers, lighting and scene painting artists and technicians, film editors, animators, costumiers, writers), would our state have a tourism, film, and digital industry?

We owe a debt of gratitude to those legislators who understand these reasons and one more: it is the arts that cultivate our ingenuity, creativity, and humanity. It is these traits will lead Georgia into a more prosperous future.


I think the letter makes an eloquent case for the arts, not only here in Georgia but anywhere in the world. We would all be enriched greatly if the arts were regarded more as society's lifeblood and sustainer of civil discourse.