Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Proving the Economic Importance of the Arts

I found myself reading this article from the Miami Herald and decided I had to mention it.  (To give credit where credit is due, it came my way via Audience Development Specialists on twitter, follow them here

So often, as arts professionals and advocates, we find ourselves discussing the esoteric value of art.  Yes, art is vital to human expression and interaction, and the intangible benefits of the arts are infinite, but what about the economic impact of the arts?

For some arts communities, the positive impact they have on the local economy is obvious (i.e. BROADWAY).  For other communities, and often arts organizations in the nonprofit sector, this is not so obvious.  Enter the Cultural Data Project

This free online tool allows arts and cultural organizations to store their financial information on their site where it can be easily formatted to fit grant applications for a number of participating grantmakers.  (Are you smiling out there grantwriters?? Yes, something to streamline the budget building process for grants)  In addition, the service compiles the financial information of all participating organizations so you can compare how your doing in your budget range (anonymously of course).  The service in and of itself is helpful to grant seekers, grant makers, bookkeeppers, development professionals and managers. 

But why do I really think the Cultural Data Project is important?  Because all of that collected financial information is accessible to researchers who want to prove to governments and funders that the arts are a driving force in local economies and should be treated as such.  By quantifying the needs of the arts world, strategic plans can be developed that allow funds to reach arts organizations in ways that help them best serve their communities both directly and indirectly. 

Cool right?  Now I'm not trying to proselytize for the Cultural Data Project.   I'm sure there are lots of other organizations that have taken steps to provide tangible data for use in the battle for the arts in this country, I'm just not familiar with them.  One thing is certain, while the world at large seems to FINALLY be getting the message that the arts are priceless to the human experience, if we're going to survive the recession, and future economic downturns, we have to be able to quantify our worth for the powers that be.

Let me know of other ways your organization or business is proving itself as a valuable investment.

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