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Local, State, and Federal lawmakers have difficult jobs. They are expected to resolve some of the biggest problems of our time.

All areas of spending—including the arts—come under scrutiny, and every public dollar is competitive. Lawmakers may ask whether government has a legitimate role to play in the arts, or whether the arts should receive funds when so many other critical needs are pressing.

The answer to both questions is a resounding based “Yes.”

The arts are an important community builder and prosperity generator for states. In addition to their inherent value to society, the arts offer a distinctive blend of benefits:

  • ECONOMIC DRIVERS: The arts create jobs and produce tax revenue. A strong arts sector is an economic asset that stimulates business activity, attracts tourism and expands a state’s work force and tax base. The arts have been shown to be a successful and sustainable strategy for revitalizing rural areas, cities and populations struggling with poverty.
  • EDUCATIONAL ASSETS: The arts cultivate young imaginations and facilitate success in school, enhancing students’ academic achievement in multiple subject areas. They provide the critical-thinking, communications and innovation skills essential to a productive 21st-century work force.
  • HEALTH AND WELLNESS: The arts foster physical, mental and emotional health, aiding recovery processes and contributing to well-being. Arts therapy is a medically and economically effective tool for treating aging adults, children and people suffering from trauma, including military combat personnel and veterans.
  • CIVIC CATALYSTS: The arts create a welcoming sense of place and a desirable quality of life. The arts also support a strong democracy, engaging citizens in civic discourse, providing forums for important issues and encouraging collective problem solving. (Learn more.)
  • CULTURAL LEGACIES: The arts preserve culture and heritage, passing along a state’s unique character and traditions to future generations of citizens.

Lawmakers recognize other value-added advantages to making the arts a part of public policy:

  • Incorporating the arts improves the impact of other state policies and services. Numerous states have incorporated the arts into economic revitalization, education, literacy, work-force development, tourism, community sustainability, social service and veterans-care plans.
  • The arts are a dynamic contributor to the small-business sector. The creative industries are composed of many talented workers who are self-employed, freelancers or employed by microenterprises. According to National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) analysis of U.S Census occupational data, artists are nearly 3.5 times more likely than the total U.S. work force to be self-employed (33.6% vs. 9.8%).1 Many nonprofit arts organizations, too, are small businesses and play an important role in training creative workers and incubating artistic enterprises.

(From “Why Should Government Support the Arts?” A State Policy Brief from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.)