Making a case for the arts

Posted on: February 10, 2009

In an opinion piece Monday (2/9) in the Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones writes, “In the recent debate over the Barack Obama administration’s economic recovery bill, proposals to spend government money on the arts have become poster children for pork. … In the Senate, an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) lumped museums, theaters and arts centers (a terrifyingly vague term) with such frippery as casinos, golf courses and swimming pools as recipients who must be stopped from getting any of this funding. The amendment passed 73-24 on Friday, with many Democrats voting in the majority. … The argument that the labor-intensive arts are not job-creation engines is patently absurd; they just fuel different kinds of struggling workers, workers unaccustomed to bonuses. Their role in generating billions of dollars in ancillary economic activity for stores, restaurants and the travel business has been proven in bucketloads of surveys and analyses.” The arts, Jones writes, must use such information to make their case for better support. “Economic stimulus is dependent on the human spirit. The arts create confidence and self-worth, and those qualities in turn foster fiscal activity. The arts build neighborhoods and can help stem the decline in property values. The current recession is most devastating in inner cities, precisely where the arts are at their best.”