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.