From social welfare to local business development to education, the arts are a driving force in both the economic and cultural landscapes that make up our country. Although vast in size at 97,000 square miles, Wyoming has the smallest state population with 576,412 people in 2010 (United States Census Bureau). With an average of just 5.8 persons per square mile, much of Wyoming’s populace is isolated from major services found readily available in higher populated areas of the country.
The arts industry builds communities by promoting economic development and social welfare. Nationally, nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating $22.3 billion in government revenue (Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, Americans for the Arts). In 2011, the Wyoming arts industry was directly responsible for creating 8,249 jobs and over $200 million in taxable revenue (Creative Vitality Index, CVI). Nationally, the average arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including costs associated with admission such as meals, parking, and babysitters.
The arts function as a cornerstone of tourism, as arts travelers stay longer and spend more while on vacation. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has increased from 17 to 23 percent since 2003, while the share attending concerts and theater performances increased from 13 to 16 percent. Additionally, arts attendees who live outside the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42) (Americans for the Arts). With tourism being one of Wyoming’s main non-mineral resources for funding, developing local arts industries is a valuable and necessary investment because a vibrant local arts industry has the potential to provide valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.
In addition to economic development, University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, increased child welfare, and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community also ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace. The arts also have a demonstrable impact on personal wellness. Nearly one-half of the nation’s health care institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and staff. Seventy-eight percent of these institutions indicate that they deliver these programs because of the healing benefits to patients through shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication (Americans for the Arts).
While the arts play a major role in building local economies, they also factor into education and workforce development. Education in the Arts prepares students with strong skills in life, school and work. Learning in the Arts, both standalone and integrated, provides students with deep learning and the development of critical thinking skills, creativity and innovation–which have been named as keys to success in the 21st Century workforce.
According to the 2008 Conference Board report, “Ready to Innovate: Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce”, creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders. In fact, 72 percent of respondents said that creativity is of high importance when hiring with the biggest creativity indicator being a college arts degree. The report concludes, “(T)he arts–music, creative writing, drawing, dance–provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.”
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