I have a Golden Rule at Americans for the Arts: “No numbers without a story, and no stories without a number.”
Three years ago, I had open-heart surgery. It was totally unexpected. A couple of medical tests and suddenly I entered a whirlwind of fear, uncertainty, and a lot of ouch! Nothing steals away self-confidence and dignity like a stay in the hospital—midnight needle pokes, reliance on others to alleviate pain, being afraid just to stand up without help. The surgery went well, but it left me wondering if I had what it takes to rebuild myself.
Looking back, what I remember beyond the caring professionals who fixed me, is the art. It transformed a medical experience into one that I can now only describe as profound. As I slowly walked the halls after the surgery, telemetry device and tubes in hand, I was drawn to the art on the walls. The colors and shapes were a feast for tired eyes. As I spent time with the art, however, there was more. I began to feel the healing energy of the art and the artist's hand, both physically and emotionally. It was palpable, unexpected, and took me to a place of hope. I felt like a ship captain spotting the lighthouse on a stormy night—a safe harbor. I knew I was going to transcend this. I'm so grateful.
Nearly half of the nation’s hospitals have arts programs for patients, their families, and even caregivers. 78 percent of hospital CEOs say the purpose of these programs is to aid in the physical and emotional healing of their patients. That data point nails it.
The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. This advocacy season, find your stories and pair them with the research-based findings in the “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten.
10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2018
The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times.
- Arts improve individual well-being. 63 percent of the population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” and 73 percent say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”
- Arts unify communities. 67 percent of Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 62 percent agree that the arts “helps me understand other cultures better”—a perspective observed across all demographic and economic categories.
- Arts improve academic performance. Students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs, standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates. These academic benefits are reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Yet, the Department of Education reports that access to arts education for students of color is significantly lower than for their white peers. 88 percent of Americans believe that arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education.
- Arts strengthen the economy. Arts and cultural goods in the U.S. added $764 billion to the economy in 2015, and included a $21 billion international trade surplus. The arts represented a larger share of the nation’s economy (4.2 percent of GDP) than transportation, tourism, and agriculture (source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $166.3 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences), which supports 4.6 million jobs and generates $27.5 billion in government revenue.
- Arts drive tourism and revenue to local businesses. Attendees at nonprofit arts events spend $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters—valuable commerce for local businesses. 34 percent of attendees live outside the county in which the arts event takes place; they average $47.57 in event-related spending. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences.
- Arts spark creativity and innovation. Creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders, per the Conference Board’s Ready to Innovate report—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. Research on creativity shows that Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than other scientists.
- Arts drive the creative industries. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. A 2017 analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 673,656 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts—4.0 percent of all businesses and 2.0 percent of all employees. (Get a free local Creative Industry report for your community here.)
- Arts have social impact. University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates.
- Arts improve healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.
- Arts for the health and well-being of our military. The arts heal the mental, physical, and moral injuries of war for military servicemembers and Veterans, who rank the creative arts therapies in the top 4 (out of 40) interventions and treatments. Across the military continuum, the arts promote resilience during pre-deployment, deployment, and the reintegration of military servicemembers, Veterans, their families, and caregivers into communities.
You can download the “Top 10” one-pager here.