|Organization:||Texas Cultural Trust|
Advocacy by Numbers: Creative Economy Development Success Story
Weeks ago, when Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called for the elimination of all funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts—an agency he felt was outside the scope of the core functions of government—advocates knew that a tough battle was on the horizon. But thanks to recent in-depth studies conducted by the Texas Cultural Trust, those advocates could take comfort in the fact they had the data to challenge Gov. Perry’s notion that public funding of the arts somehow did not benefit the government, and subsequently, the people of Texas.
The Trust released a wide array of data at the end of last year attesting to the power of creative development as an economic engine—not only at the state level, but in smaller cities and communities as well. The studies were made available in time for advocates to present the data to their representatives during the 2011 legislative session. The Texas legislature only meets every two years, so the timely release of this information was essential in making a pro-arts economic argument.
Between half a million and one million people are employed in the creative sector in Texas, and their average annual income is about $30,000 more than the state average of $39,000. The Trust’s economic development study, which includes a Spring 2011 Supplemental Update, also indicates that millions of dollars of tax revenue go straight to the government from sales and income within the creative sector. However, the primary focus of the economic development study was to examine how these numbers play out on a micro level in lesser-known communities—the communities that often suffer the most when public funding for the arts is cut or eliminated.
The analysis focused on the creative economies of the cities of Amarillo, Clifton, El Paso, Rockport, and Texarkana. The individual reports of these cities highlight how a combination of public and private investment in the arts can strengthen an economy in a variety of ways. Naturally, tourism to these destinations increases. Businesses follow the tourists, creating local jobs. More local jobs increase the quality of life for residents. Residents have more of a reason to get out and experience their town, make connections with fellow citizens, and society as a whole is strengthened.
These facts make a compelling case to state legislators that cutting public funding for the arts is directly in opposition to the very goals the government claims to have: strengthening the economy, creating jobs, and providing for the well-being of its citizens.
After Gov. Perry’s public statements, arts advocates utilized the Trust’s economic development data in their meetings with state legislators and the administration. When faced with the reality that, even in smaller scale cities, the arts can make a huge impact on the economy, it became clear that the elimination of public funding for the arts would be disingenuous, and would not help the state’s economy in the long run. The most recent budget proposal of Gov. Rick Perry calls for $7.5 million in general funds to be appropriated to the Texas Commission on the Arts in the upcoming 2011–2013 biennium. The House and Senate concurred, each recommending $7.5 million as well.
As more and more advocacy groups develop the capacity to produce such detailed economic development information for so many diverse areas within a state, fighting for arts funding may become a bit easier. The Trust’s reports, combined with the dedication of the creative sector, and advocacy groups such as Texans for the Arts, show how much of an impact a united voice can have—especially with the right information on their side.
|Organization Contact:||Amy Barbee|