Winston Churchill - Artist

1 February 2017

A Total Eclipse Of The Arts? Why It Matters And What We Can Do

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Guy Whose Career Would be Nothing without the Arts…

Since this is a website for creative professionals, I would be remiss to not comment on the threat to the National Endowment of the Arts. Although its budget is relatively minuscule — a mere $148 million in 2016 compared to the $437 million budget for military marching bands (yes, really) and the overall $3.54 trillion federal budget— the positive impact of the arts can’t be ignored.

Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, lists 10 reasons to support the arts:

  1. Arts promote true prosperity.
  2. Arts improve academic performance.
  3. Arts strengthen the economy.
  4. Arts are good for local merchants.
  5. Arts drive tourism.
  6. Arts are an export industry.
  7. Arts spark creativity and innovation.
  8. Arts have social impact.
  9. Arts improve healthcare.
  10. Arts mean business.

Among the many statistics Cohen sites, he notes that:

“The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector is a $699 billion industry, which represents 4.3 percent of the nation’s GDP—a larger share of the economy than transportation and agriculture. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences) that supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue.”

Money aside (and some have criticized Cohen and other arts advocates for playing the conservative “economic value” game), we all know arts have a more intrinsic value to a society.

I support that by quoting a historic conservative who himself was an artist, Winston Churchill. Now, there’s a false meme circulating online that says, “When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding to support the war effort, he replied: ‘Then what are we fighting for?’” He never said that — it’s one of those “alternative facts” — but I love the sentiment. Creative freedom is something I’ve fought for my entire career. Instead, here’s what Churchill actually said:

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them… Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

If Trump kills the NEA budget, then we owe it to our collective sanity to provide the funding ourselves. (Yes, we thought we were doing that through taxes, but that’s politics for you.) That means:

  • supporting our local museums, orchestras, and other arts organizations
  • buying original art from working and aspiring artists
  • and making sure our local school boards allocate money for arts education

And I’m not just addressing individuals here; the entertainment industry and urban governments that thrive off the arts community should do more to support artists so they’re not driven out of the neighborhoods they made trendy and forced to live in fire-hazard warehouses.

Although it’s just a small step toward creating the society we actually want, we can’t spell “start” without A-R-T.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

2 Responses

  1. Life without art, music, film, theater and literature would be bleak indeed.

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