Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Funding for the Arts?

I was reading recently in a blog that the Economic Stimulus Plan being touted by Obama and which has passed the house includes funding for the arts. The Republican opposition considers it pork and is fighting it even as long standing performing arts organizations are facing bankruptcy and failure due to lack of donations during this economic crisis.

Is funding for the arts merely wasteful pork? As an artist myself I am inclined to say no so I did some research on the economics of the issue. There are some six million jobs in the arts which would be effected by this bailout. My guess is the number of artists in dance, music, and visual arts that are actually suffering because of this depression in the economy is a tremendous deal amount larger.

Arts also from the information I read seems to generate about $167 million annually in revenue. I am not enough of an economist to figure out how they derive that figure and if it is fact merely ticket sales to the Boston Ballet and the Philadelphia Symphony, etc. It would be hard to track the sales of individual painters and sculptors or even small studios and galleries. And are classes for our children in ceramics and dance included in that figure? They are not included in the bailout funds. It does not pretend to be that comprehensive in its scope.

After all this research I decided not to give the world economic perspective on the closing of the Kennedy Performance Center in Washington, D.C. I was too upset remembering great evenings there and at the Arena Stage in D.C. to be rational.

And then there is my community. We started as a ski resort. Then expanded to a golf course. Because of our wonderful location in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico we get bikers, hikers, campers, sightseers and an ever growing amount of art tourists. They come here to enjoy Music from Angel Fire, a chamber music festival in August; Angel Fire Mountain Theater performances and ArtsFest Fine Art Fair in July presented by the Moreno Valley Arts Council; and shopping the studios and galleries of local artists. This May we are launching a studio tour funded in part by the New Mexico Arts Council and the state tourism bureau.

Art Tourism provides a lot to the gross receipts tax base upon which our community depends for the maintenance of roads, civic improvements, and schools. Hotels and condos and restaurants all benefit from the classic music lovers that come here to listen to New York and world renowned musicians performing during Music from Angel Fire which has been going on for over 25 years. And while those performers are here they give free concerts in the schools which have been deprived of music and art education courses for years.

Art Tourism is non-polluting. Does not rut the mountain roads like mountain bikes or ATV's. Is not dependent upon snowfall.

Arts are not pork. Arts enrich our lives. And they are an integral part of the economy of many a town like mine.